State Senate Fails to Pass Voter ID Bill

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 24 2011 12:41 PM

State Senate Fails to Pass Voter ID Bill

MADISON, Wisc. -- The gambit failed, for now. The Republican-only state Senate adjourned for the day -- after a 40-minute session -- without passing the voter ID bill.

The reason? Republicans had a problem. The legislation offered reimbursements to pay for IDs for voters who currently lacked them. That was a financial component -- that meant 20 senators needed to be present to pass the bill. There was talk of striking that component from the bill, which would have made it germane to pass by the rump of GOP senators. But failing to include the reimbursement would have inspired instant lawsuits -- likely successful lawsuits -- striking down the law.

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"We have to wait for a 20th member to arrive so we have a quorum to take up a bill that has a fiscal note to it," said Sen. Jeff Leibham, who co-wrote an amendment meant to fix the bill. "It's out of respect for the bill and the process we're trying to develop for voting in Wisconsin. We think it's smarter to keep the bill intact."

That tied the Republicans' hands. The brief session was given over to a few speeches stating the important of voter ID, the possible fraud in Wisconsin elections, and, of course, a plea for Democrats to return.

"Why are they denying quorum?" said a plaintive Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, the GOP's leader. "This is not something in Robert's Rules."

Earlier, Fitzgerald had learned that his wife Lisa, a school counselor, was among the public employees receiving at-risk notices.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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