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.

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.

More

I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

Keep Reading Show less
Recommended
via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

Policing women's bodies — and by consequence their clothes — is nothing new to women across the globe. But this mother's "legging problem" is particularly ridiculous.

What someone wears, regardless of gender, is a personal choice. Sadly, many folks like Maryann White, mother of four sons, think women's attire — particularly women's leggings are a threat to men.

While sitting in mass at the University of Notre Dame, White was aghast by the spandex attire the young women in front of her were sporting.

Keep Reading Show less
More

Men are sharing examples of how they step up and step in when they see problematic behaviors in their peers, and people are here for it.

Twitter user "feminist next door" posed an inquiry to her followers, asking "good guys" to share times they saw misogyny or predatory behavior and did something about it. "What did you say," she asked. "What are your suggestions for the other other men in this situation?" She added a perfectly fitting hashtag: #NotCoolMan.

Not only did the good guys show up for the thread, but their stories show how men can interrupt situations when they see women being mistreated and help put a stop to it.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture