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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.

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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