Wisconsin Voter ID Law May Force 84-Year-Old Woman To Pay $200 To Get A Voter ID


Written by Tanya Somanader

For 63 years, Brokaw, Wisconsin native Ruthelle Frank went to the polls to vote. Though paralyzed on her left side since birth, the 84-year-old “fiery woman” voted in every election since 1948 and even got elected herself as a member of the Brokaw Village Board. But because of the state’s new voter ID law, 2012 will be the first year Frank can’t vote. Born after a difficult birth at her home in 1927, Frank never received an official birth certificate. Her mother recorded it in her family Bible and Frank has a certification of baptism from a few months later, along with a Social Security card, a Medicare statement, and a checkbook. But without the official document, she can’t secure the state ID card that the new law requires to vote next year.

“It’s really crazy,” she added. “I’ve got all this proof. You mean to tell me that I’m not a U.S. citizen?” But state officials have informed Frank that, because the state Register of Deeds does have a record of her birth, they can issue her a new birth certificate — for a fee. And because of a spelling error, that fee may be as high as $200:

Though Frank never had a birth certificate, the state Register of Deeds in Madison has a record of her birth. It can generate a birth certificate for her — for a fee. Normally, the cost is $20.

“I look at that like paying a fee to vote,” Frank said.

And for Frank, that might not be the end of it. The attending physician at Frank’s birth misspelled her maiden name, which was Wedepohl. To get a birth certificate that has correct information, she will have to petition a court to amend the document — a weeks-long process that could cost $200 or more.

The State Vital Records Division advised frank to just pay the $20 for an incorrect birth certificate and cross her fingers that the DMV accepts it. “If she gets [the state ID], great!” officials said in an email. If not, they said “she can begin the lengthy, potentially costly process of getting the document fixed. Then she can return to the DMV and try again.”

Another state official suggested Frank claim she is “indefinitely confined,” a category that would grant her an exception under the law. “That would be real voter fraud,” said Frank. “I go down to the Village Hall for meetings. I get around ok.” She added, “I don’t want to be a liar” and “that would be lying.”

“It’s just stupid,” Frank said of the situation. A stupidity that numerous citizens like 96-year-old Dorothy Cooper and 86-year-old Darwin Spinks face on account of their own state’s voter ID restrictions. In Wisconsin, one study noted that “an estimated 177,399 Wisconsin residents 65 and older do not have a driver’s license or state photo ID — 23 percent of that population. The study estimated that another 98,247 residents ages 35 through 64 lack IDs,” particularly among minorities.

Thus, unfortunately, Frank does not face disenfranchisement alone. “I feel for other people out there” who don’t have the necessary IDs or certificates, Frank said. “I think they just won’t vote.”

This post was originally published by ThinkProgress.


Related Stories:

96-Year-Old Chattanooga Woman Denied Voting ID

Tell Gov. Walker to Stop Disenfranchising Voters

Stopping the War on Women in Wisconsin


Photo from Denise Cross via flickr


New G.
W. C6 years ago

Thank you for the news.

Sandra G.
Sandra G.6 years ago

Just like any other new laws. The elderly should be exempt from this category. As in other new laws they should be "grandfathered" in. You would think by now, we could be voting via internet. It could be done and in a way that first, elderly and disabled could vote from their home. And there are plenty of security measures that could be taken. I live in WI and have always loved my state. But for the first time in my life, I am embarrassed by our executive government. Madison has always been a fair city. Dating back to the 60's. We were accepting of peoples choices and the gay/lesbian community (and we're the midwest) Let this lady vote. They must have records of her previous years. I know that when I voted before the law changed, all you did was tell the "volunteers" your name, address and length of residence. Obviously, WI is being taken hostage by the conservatives.

Juliet D.
judith sanders6 years ago

Voting should be compulsory. If a person wishes to abstain from voting, they should be required to file an opt-out at least a week in advance.

Voting day should be a holiday.

If the USPS and UPS can get to just about every address in the US, why not mobile voting vans? How about voting stations in airports and other places where people may be traveling? Once you have registered to vote, your should be able to vote on your home district's candidates from anywhere in the world. We have the technology to eliminate the messy process of absentee voting.

J.C. H.
Jc Honeycutt6 years ago

Will R.--

"Amazing, isn't it?" Yes, indeed: not that an 84-year-old disabled woman doesn't have a passport, but that you are a big enough idiot to assume that most if not all Americans have traveled abroad, or that it has anything whatsoever to do with their right to vote. This woman may not have a passport, but she has enough sense to know when her rights are being violated!

And Phillip S.--please let me know what police state you live in, so I can avoid it in the future: I'd hate to take a walk and find myself jailed for not carrying ID.

Mark Stevenson
Mark S6 years ago

Yup. Charging high prices for voter ID discriminates against the poor, so they cannot vote. So the repugs have an unfair advantage. No surprise, but still outrageous.

Helen Allard
Helen A6 years ago

I don't understand this story myself, if she has a ss card and is on disability which I think she is b/c of her birth defect then why is she having such a hard time with this fricken red tape. I don't think this is all to the story and we haven't been given all of the information about this case...

june t.
reft h6 years ago

sounds like another way to bring in money

Lynn C.
Lynn C6 years ago

Well that was the idea - right?

Sheri Schongold
Sheri Schongold6 years ago

I was under the impression that everyone could vote as long as they had a ss# and card. I guess that we now need to prove that we were born in order to vote. Another way for the government to get money.

Mitch D.
Mitch D6 years ago

Philip P- what "state" do you live in? David A- just b/c election fraud is a "game" that both sides "can play" does not mean it exists. In fact, election fraud is NOT a real problem... the GOP has imagined it into existence. Election fraud happens extremely infrequently. The real goal of the Republicans is to keep the people from voting who are most likely to vote Democrat. After reading all your bs, it seems that you have been watching a lot of faux news!