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The de facto poll tax of 2011

When you talk about government overreach, sometimes the effect matters more than the intent.

When you talk about government overreach, sometimes the effect matters more than the intent. Consider Michigan, for instance, where the new emergency manager law has put more than half the African-American population is at risk of having no meaningful local democracy. You can't say that Republicans wanted that law so they could disenfranchise those voters. You can say that's becoming the effect of the law.

Likewise, in Wisconsin, a new law that requires you to show photo ID at the polls is having the effect of disenfranchising the poor, minorities, students and seniors like Ruthelle Frank. It almost doesn't matter whether Wisconsin Republicans intended to do that. The effect is what counts.

And consider this, too: One of the last unsettled questions in Wisconsin is which types of student IDs will be acceptable at the polls. Wisconsin Republicans wanted to block student IDs from technical colleges -- meaning, in effect, the students from less fancy backgrounds. You might expect those students, incidentally or not, to lean Democratic.

The ACLU sued Wisconsin yesterday in federal court over the new law that makes voting harder. The group's filing notes that Governor Scott Walker could still reject the provision that allows for technical college IDs. Check out the numbers the ACLU presents (pdf):

There were 382,006 students enrolled in the technical college system in the 2009-2010 academic year, which constitutes 8.8% of Wisconsin's total voting-age population. Of these technical college students, 59,323 were minority students. By sharp contrast, there were only 18,000 minority students in the entire University of Wisconsin ("UW") System in the same academic year. Indeed, there were more minority students (20,916) at Milwaukee Area Technical College alone than in the entire UW System.

Emphasis mine. In arguing against allowing technical college IDs, were Wisconsin Republicans trying to keep the minority vote down in places like Milwaukee? That's a real question, but the real answer is that the new voter ID could do exactly that -- and it's the curbing of rights that matters.