Capitol Chaos: Senate Doesn't Pass Voter ID Bill

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Republicans in the Wisconsin state Senate debated a bill Thursday that would require voters to show photo identification at the polls but were unable to pass it because 14 Democrats were absent.

All the Democrats skipped town last week to avoid having to vote on another Republican-backed bill that would take away nearly all collective bargaining rights for most public employees.

The 19 Republicans left have been taking up other bills in the Democrats' absence in part as an attempt to pressure the Democrats to return. Democrats are opposed to the voter ID requirement.

The Senate debated the bill and moved it one step away from passage, but because it spends money they couldn't pass it without at least one Democrat present. It's the same requirement that's led to gridlock on the union bill.

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Click here to read the original budget bill

Click here to see who voted for and against the bill, and who didn't vote

"Once again I ask, where is the minority party? Why are they not participating?" said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.

Democrats have opposed the voter ID bill for years, arguing that it will make it more difficult for college students, senior citizens and minorities to vote. Republicans argue it's needed to combat voter fraud.

Republicans hoped that bringing up the bill would motivate Democrats to come back to voice their opposition.

It didn't happen.

Photo identification is only required currently in nine other states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Eighteen states require the ID only, not necessarily one with a photo.

Wisconsin voters currently are not required to show any form of ID before casting a ballot.

The new requirement would be in effect for the April election, but voters who don't have IDs would still be allowed to cast their ballots and would be given information about the new law that would fully take effect in 2012.

Acceptable IDs include state driver's licenses, state IDs, military IDs, passports, naturalization papers and Native American tribal IDs. Student IDs, something opponents wanted included, would not be allowed.

The proposal requires citizens to have been at their current address for at least 28 days before the election. The current requirement is just 10 days. Those who have been at their current address less than 28 days could still vote at their previous polling place or be limited to vote in just presidential elections but not for state or local contests.

Under the bill, voters would also have to sign poll books after presenting their IDs.

Voters without an acceptable ID could cast provisional ballots that would be counted if they present the acceptable identification to election clerks by 4 p.m. the Friday after the election.

"Many of our citizens in the state of Wisconsin have lost confidence in the election process," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan. He called the new requirements "reasonable and practical" that would not impact the vast majority of Wisconsin residents.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)