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For 5 months, he tried to get a voter ID. Now Leroy Switlick is taking his state to court.

Voter ID laws don't necessarily stop fraud. They do stop people like Leroy from being able to vote.

For 5 months, he tried to get a voter ID. Now Leroy Switlick is taking his state to court.

Leroy Switlick of Milwaukee has voted in every single U.S. presidential election since he was 21. Now he’s 67, and for the first time, he might not get to cast a ballot.

Before 2011, Switlick never had a problem voting. The registrar would mail a card with his information on it, and he’d bring that card to the polling place and exchange it for a ballot. Switlick had voted this way in every election since 1970.

All of that changed five years ago when Gov. Scott Walker passed laws to get rid of early voting and implement strict voter ID laws. Now Switlick — who is legally blind and doesn't have a driver's license — needs a state-issued photo ID card, something he can only get at a special office of the DMV.


It's a new — and increasingly frustrating — experience.

On three separate occasions, Switlick has visited the DMV to try to get his ID.

The first time, this past spring, he was turned away when he couldn’t produce a photo ID — the very thing he was there to get.

The second time, he made an appointment in advance with a manager who’d promised to help him. When he arrived, that manager wasn’t there.

The third time, he went to the office with a representative from the ACLU. They told him the DMV’s computers weren’t working that day and couldn’t help him. "The crazy thing was when we called back later and they said there had been nothing wrong with the computers," Switlick said. "There were a lot of people turned away that day.”

The challenges of working within bureaucracies — in this life and beyond — are well documented. GIF from "Beetlejuice."

"Right now, I’m still in limbo," Switlick said.

With the first deadline for voter registration looming on Oct. 19, there’s a chance that even after five months of trying to get his ID issued, Switlick might not receive it in time to register to vote in November.

While all citizens in the U.S. legally have the right to vote, residents in at least 31 states across the country are grappling with restrictive voter ID laws that can limit them from performing the most essential act of citizenship.

Wisconsin's voter ID requirements are particularly strict. Combined with their removal of early voting, the state is home to some of the most restrictive rules in the nation.

The new regulations require that voters present a valid government-issued photo ID card in order to prove their identity. Even people voting by absentee ballot must enclose a photocopy of their ID. There are some exceptions to these rules — Native Americans can use a tribal ID, and currently enrolled students can use their college or university-issued IDs — but overall, they add a lot of unnecessary bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy like this, but, you know, even slower. GIF from "Zootopia."

Proponents of voter ID laws say the laws are designed to improve voting, not restrict it. Larry Dupuis, legal director at the ACLU of Wisconsin, says the reality is very different.

"The whole idea of voter ID laws got started a while back with the notion that elections might be stolen and it became sort of a political talking point," Dupuis said.

Supporters cite the very scary sounding prospect of voter fraud — and say these laws will keep people from casting multiple ballots in the same election and trying to subvert the democratic process. But, Dupuis says this about the laws in practice:

"The way these things operate, they tend to depress turnout for younger people who don’t have a driver's license or are in college, elderly people who no longer drive and minority folks who use transit and don’t necessarily have driver's licenses because they don’t need them. And there is a benefit to one party over another."

The idea that these laws are discriminatory isn't just Dupuis' opinion. Researchers at the University of California San Diego found that strict voter ID laws reduced turnout during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections in demographics that tend to vote Democrat — particularly black and Latino voters.

Earlier this year, Switlick decided enough was enough. He joined the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation’s ongoing lawsuit against the state’s voter ID laws.

Members of the Frank v. Walter legal team. Image by ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation, used with permission.

For the last five years, the state of Wisconsin and the ACLU have battled back and forth, with victories and losses on both sides. While an April 2014 judgment struck down the law, the state successfully appealed, putting the laws back in place.

Later this year, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit will make a decision on the case, but that might not happen before Election Day on Nov. 8. That means that for this election, people who want to cast ballots in Wisconsin and who don’t have valid photo ID are going to have to jump through some pretty big hoops at the DMV.

Whatever happens afterward, Dupuis, like Switlick, is committed to continuing the fight.

"The number of people who are affected by this are not likely to tip an election one way or another," Dupuis said. "But isn’t a democracy about ensuring everyone has a voice? These laws drive a wedge between the government and communities of color and between other people who have trouble getting ID. And if you make people cynical, you drive down participation in our democracy and the less legitimate it is. It becomes a government for whom ID is easy to get, not all the people."

It's one thing to opt out of participating in a democracy and quite another to have a democracy opt out of having you in it.

Image via iStock.

Switlick and Dupuis aren't backing down. And neither should other voters.

For Americans casting ballots in November, being aware of what specific ID laws exist in each state is essential.

"At the moment you need to do the work. Make sure you have all your boxes checked, ducks in a row," said Dupuis. Fortunately, there are lots of resources online to help. Like this. Or this. And this.

Switlick's fight to make sure he gets the ID he needs and that his vote is counted is an essential part of democracy. He's standing up, for himself and other voters, for as long as it takes until their voices are heard.

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That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

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In 11 jurisdictions, people who engage in consensual same-sex sexual activity face the possibility of the death penalty for their behavior. "At least 6 of these implement the death penalty – Iran, Northern Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen – and the death penalty is a legal possibility in Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, and UAE," Human Dignity Trust says.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!