From massive recall efforts to special elections, the state of Wisconsin has become a political focal point in America over the last year. And if recent reports are any indication, that won’t change anytime soon.
The Cheesehead state’s local bar scene might be ground zero for another set of battles that have national implications. Jack Carver of the Isthmus paper in Wisconsin reports that local bars in the college town of Madison have begun denying entry to anyone without a driver’s license. Why would a bar deny entry to people without driver’s licenses? If anything these folks are much less likely to get drunk on Guinness and drive into a tree after they leave the bar. Carver shares an interesting statistic that he believes sheds light on the new local ordinance. Less than 50% of African Americans in the city of Madison Wisconsin have valid driver’s licenses. In fact according to a recent report from the Employment and Training Institute at the University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin the state wide numbers are even more disturbing:
For young adults (ages 18 through 24) even fewer minorities have valid drivers’ licenses to use for voter identification……. Statewide, only 22 percent of young African American males and 34 percent of young African American females have a valid license. For young Hispanics, 43 percent of males and only 37 percent of females have a valid license. For whites, 64 percent of males and 75 percent of females have valid licenses.
In recent months, Republican state lawmakers have been attempting to suppress likely Democratic voters by passing laws requiring driver licenses in order for people to vote. This was highlighted by the recent story of 96-year old Dorothy Cooper who was denied the right to vote in Chattanooga Tennessee because she didn’t have a driver’s license, despite the fact that she had voted in every election since women were legally able.
Attempting to screw people out of their right to vote by requiring onerous documentation is par for the course a year before a presidential election. But, the Madison case is a scary tipping point. Requiring state identification to enter a business establishment is dancing precipitously close to the kind of discrimination that we supposedly eradicated as a country 50 years ago. Nationally, over 25% of African Americans have no state issued ids and more than 21 million American citizens (11%) do not have ready access to any documentation proving their citizenship. Imagine the legal and commercial consequences of denying citizens (most of whom would be poor, elderly or minorities) the right to enter a mall, library, or worse, something as simple as a grocery store simply because they didn’t have a driver’s license.
As of right now in Madison this seems to be the local ordinance. Which is really a smokescreen to weed out ‘townies’ from going to college bars – but, it could clearly spread across the nation if no attention is paid to the issue. Next time you go out to a bar they may not just card you to see if you can drink, but to see if you actually have the right to enter the establishment. That’ll put a damper on your night.
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.