Dennis Hatten is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, yet he was recently almost denied the right to vote, a right he put his life on the line to help guarantee.
Hatten first encountered problems due to an error on his birth certificate, and he then spent several months before he got the problem ironed out just in time to get his state-issued ID card so he could cast his ballot. But the entire incident has left Hatten more than a bit confused and angry:
‘I thought, is this sort of a poll tax type of thing? Are they trying to stop us from voting? But I tried to look past that and went ahead and did what I had to do.’
Strict voter ID laws have been shown to disproportionately affect the poor and those of color, two groups Republicans don’t want to see showing up for elections because they tend not to support the GOP. It is estimated that up to 300,000 residents of Wisconsin may not be allowed to vote, due to the state’s new law.
When this all started, Hatten said he recalled what his family members had told him about life in Arkansas during the Jim Crow era of segregation and injustice for blacks. He says he had an uncle who told him “white folks wouldn’t let [him] vote” back in the 1960s. Yet, here he was in 2016 Wisconsin being told that he would not be able to vote.
The life Hatten has lived has not been an easy one. He served his country in the 1980s and was in the Marine Corps for several years before he had to help care for ailing family members, including his mother, father, and grandparents. He later lost his job, was diagnosed with a severe mental illness, and developed an addiction to drugs.
While living at the Vets Place Center shelter in Milwaukee, Hatten saw a presentation on the new voter ID law that was sponsored by Vote Riders and Citizen Action. He told volunteers from those agencies that he had no birth certificate and could not prove his identity, but he wanted to vote. He recalls:
‘They told me they didn’t have any record of me. It seemed to me like some of the veiled racist systems from the past are still in place. They have stuff in place to make you lose your motivation.’
Eventually, Hatten was able to use his Veterans Health Administration card to qualify as a legal voter, but he said the entire ordeal reminded him of one very important thing:
‘You’ve got to vote. It impacts your life in more ways than one.’
If you want to know more about the Wisconsin voter ID law, watch this video:
Featured Image Via ThinkProgress