Tuesday was the official launch of Wisconsin’s new Voter-I.D. law, with citizens now required to present a photo-identification card in order to cast a ballot in the primaries for local elections. And as it turns out, one man refused to vote, because he was so angry that his card from the Department of Veterans Affairs was not on the approved list.
As the Racine Journal Times reported, 69-year old veteran Gil Paar was shocked when poll workers told him his photo I.D. from the V.A. wasn’t on the accepted list. They then asked him if he had a driver’s license — which he did — but he instead refused to show it and left the precinct. “Basically I was trying to make a point,” Paar told the paper. “I gave them four years of my life, why shouldn’t I be able to use my vet’s card?”
As the paper reports, the state election officials explain that the way the law was written, a military-related I.D. must be issued by a uniform service — which does not include the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bottom line: For whatever the reason might be, whether intentional or an accident, V.A. cards were not included on the list.
Paar, who described himself to TPM as an “Irish Catholic liberal Democrat” who has donated to President Obama, told us that he too was very surprised at this development.
“I said, lady, this doesn’t make sense,” said Paar, recounting his conversation with the poll worker — who, he says, had to double-check this very matter before she could give him an answer. “It’s issued by the federal government, it’s the Veterans Administration. And she said, I know but we can’t use it. She said, do you have a driver’s license? I said, yes. She said, can you use it? And I said no — I came with the intention of using my veterans I.D.”
Paar has since complained about the matter with the state’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, plus his own local state Rep. Bob Turner (D). “He’s [Turner] a Democrat, he’s a veteran, he’s four years in the Air Force, the same as I am. I know the guy. He calls me back and says, ‘I can’t believe this.’”
Paar also explained that he sees a serious problem: “There’s a possibility that a veteran could have only this type of I.D., because he’s had a stroke, let’s say, up at the V.A. hospital. And because of that, he had his driver’s license taken away. So case in point, he would have only this Veterans Administration I.D. through the hospital.
“And they’re telling me I can’t use it, I couldn’t use it. this is not right. you’ve got a guy who serves, does his time in the Air Force, or Army or the Navy, and then he comes home and can’t vote? What the f—- did I go in for?”
TPM asked Paar about the possible reply to this problem — that the state is indeed providing free I.D. cards to people who will need them to vote, in case someone does not already have a driver’s license or other accepted identification.
But Paar was unmoved on the point: “I’m saying, how valid is an I.D. that I walk in and get for nothing, compared to one that I spent four years in the Air Force to get, you know?”
TPM spoke with state Sen. Mary Lazich (R), who as chair of the Senate Elections Committee was instrumental in the writing and passing of the bill, and explained the story to her.
“Well that’s very disappointing that someone would do that,” said Lazich. “Now obviously he had the credential readily available, and chose not to do that, so that is very sad that he didn’t go ahead and vote, and exercise his right to vote, when he could clearly do that.”
Would she be open to amending the law, we asked, to explicitly include V.A. cards on the list of accepted identification? Lazich said that she is always open to examining and modifying laws, but did add a word of caution: “The issue from a procedural standpoint is, how much do we ask from from the clerks before it becomes unwieldy from the volume of I.D.’s?”