Renewed birth certificate program provides IDs for work and voting

    (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

    Milwaukee County supervisors Theodore Lipscomb and Sequanna Taylor are supporting an amendment to the county’s free birth certificate program, continuing the program into 2020. The amendment is part of an effort by Milwaukee County to widen voting access to its residents.

    Since 2012, the free birth certificate program has allowed residents to apply for birth certificate forms at no cost, and has helped to distribute photo IDs for voting purposes. The IDs are also part of a program to help youth ranging from 15 to 21 years of age apply for work. “By extending this program for another year,” said Lipcomb, “we remove an impediment to voting and ensure our young people have access to jobs.”

    According to the amendment, the program is “reauthorized to allow an additional 1,000 birth records for voting or youth employment to be distributed.” The number of birth certificates authorized for the program has increased from the 750 which were permitted through the end of 2018.

    “This is one of the many things we agree on, which is participatory democracy and empowering the people we both serve.” County Executive Chris Abele said after the free birth certificate program was reauthorized in August 2018, in cooperation with Sup. Lipscomb. “Everything we can do to ensure participatory democracy matters, and this is an important step.”

    Those seeking a free birth certificate would be required to fill out a form which confirms that they meet the necessary criteria for obtaining the document. “The Register of Deeds is requested to provide a report to the County Board no later than July 2020 meeting cycle on the status and use of the program,” it reads.

    Taylor told Wisconsin Examiner, “This helps those in need of voter I.D. as well as youth’s ability to work.” Increasing access to voting in the county has been a focus for Taylor in recent months.

    The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors unanimously backed a resolution proposed by Taylor in September, focusing on returning voting rights to people on probation and parole. Some 65,000 Wisconsinites are not able to vote due to probation status, which is often prolonged through crimeless revocation. The resolution came in the wake of the introduction of a state bill designed to return voting rights to felons. Other bills focusing on reforming cannabis laws have also been introduced at the state-level for the explicit purpose of curtailing mass incarceration and its effects on people.

    “Anything that helps a person to better themselves and their community is something that I see as a success,” explains Taylor. “Access to birth certificates is one of those resources.”

    Isiah Holmes
    Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, and other outlets.