MADISON — Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel suggested President Donald Trump wouldn’t have won Wisconsin and GOP U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson wouldn’t have won re-election in 2016 without the state’s voter ID law.
Schimel told WISN-AM radio host Vicki McKenna in Milwaukee on Thursday that he battled in court to make sure the law was in effect for the 2016 elections. He asked rhetorically how many listeners believed Johnson would have won re-election or Trump would have captured the state without the law.
“How many of your listeners really, honestly, are sure that Sen. Johnson was going to win re-election or President Trump was going to win Wisconsin if we didn’t have voter ID to keep Wisconsin’s elections clean and honest and have integrity?” Schimel said.
Republicans passed a requirement in 2011 that all voters in Wisconsin show photo identification at the polls. The GOP has argued the photo ID law is necessary to combat election fraud, although there’s no evidence of any widespread election fraud in the state. Democrats insist the mandate is simply a way to suppress the votes of the poor and minorities, both Democratic constituencies that sometimes lack the supporting documents needed to obtain identification.
Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, the advocacy arm of liberal research group One Wisconsin Institute, said Schimel’s remarks to McKenna were an admission that the law is rigged to help Republicans win elections.
Trump won the state by 22,748 votes, and Johnson won re-election to the Senate by 99,136 votes. Wisconsin hadn’t gone for a Republican in a presidential election since 1984.
Municipal clerks reported 73 instances of possible fraud in 2016 elections, according to a report from the state Elections Commission.
Forty-three instances involved 17-year-olds who tried to vote in the April presidential primary. Five reports involved someone trying to vote twice in a primary. Twenty-one reports stemmed from the November election, including 10 reports of someone trying to vote twice.
Schimel also ripped his opponent in this November’s elections, Democrat Josh Kaul, for working against the voter ID law.
Kaul, an attorney, is representing One Wisconsin Institute in a lawsuit challenging the law. He helped persuade U.S. District Judge James Peterson in 2016 to lift a prohibition on using expired student IDs as valid photo identification at the polls and order the state to issue voting credentials to anyone seeking them.
Peterson left the rest of the law intact, however, and voters still had to produce photo identification at the polls that fall. Schimel is still appealing the ruling in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Kaul campaign aide Ashley Viste declined comment.
Acceptable IDs in Wisconsin include driver licenses; state ID cards, which can be obtained for free through the state Department of Transportation; proof that the voter has applied for a free state ID; U.S. military identification; U.S. passports; and photo IDs issued by a Wisconsin university or technical college accompanied by proof of enrollment, according to the state Elections Commission.