Wisconsin citizens will not be required to show a photo ID when they go to vote until the February 2012 primary election. However, local voters are beginning to see the new law’s effects at polling sites.
In Tuesday’s recall election, poll workers will be required to ask voters to show them photo ID. But citizens without acceptable ID will still be allowed to vote in the recall.
In July’s recall primary election, no local citizens were denied the right to vote and no provisional ballots were cast, according to Waupaca County Clerk Mary Robbins.
“The municipal clerks told me that most voters were ready to show their photo ID,” Robbins said.
When the law takes full effect in 2012, Wisconsin citizens will be required to present a driver’s license or ID issued by the state Department of Transportation, passport, military ID, naturalization certificate or tribal ID to obtain a ballot.
Student IDs must include a photo, date of issuance, student’s signature and an expiration date. Since University of Wisconsin IDs do not include all the required information, students will need to bring a combination of their school ID and a college fee payment receipt that includes their address.
“Students can also use their home address and vote absentee,” Robbins said.
Robbins noted two changes in the law that will specifically affect those who vote by absentee ballot.
First, absentee ballots must be accompanied by a photocopy of valid photo ID.
Second, the law changes the deadline for absentee ballots. In the past, voters had until 5 p.m. the Monday before an election day to deliver their absentee ballots to their municipal clerk. Now, in-person absentee voting ends at 5 p.m. Friday before election day.
Dayton Town Clerk Judy Suhs is concerned that many citizens are not aware that the new absentee voting deadline is in effect now.
“Absentee voters are going to come into the town hall on Monday and I will have to tell them they can’t vote, Suhs said.
Suhs believes elderly citizens living in the area will be most impacted by the new law.
“The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office in Waupaca is only open on Fridays,” Suhs said. “How does an elderly person who does not have a driver’s license obtain a photo ID?”
“I worry about the elderly who are still living in their homes and don’t drive,” Robbins said. “Unless they have family or friends who can drive them to Waupaca or Stevens Point, they will have a difficult time obtaining a valid photo ID.”
Farmington Town Clerk Sandy Grenlie has for years made extraordinary efforts to ensure that the residents of the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King are able to vote. She has a list of about 120 veterans who receive absentee ballots and she sends poll workers to the home to give other veterans an opportunity to vote absentee.
She does not know how the voter photo ID law will affect her efforts in 2012. Absentee ballots will now require photocopies of valid ID, which is something not all veterans have.
“I’m in limbo right now,” Grenlie said. “I don’t know how it’s going to work.”
Grenlie said she is waiting to hear back from the Government Accountability Board regarding her concerns.
To obtain state-authorized photo ID, an applicant must bring a birth certificate, a valid passport or naturalization papers to a DMV office. Birth certificates are usually available from the county records office where a person was born.
DMV will also require proof of identity before issuing a photo ID. So those applying for ID will need to bring original documents with their signature or photo, such as a marriage certificate, a Social Security card issued by the Social Security Administration or military discharge papers.
Those applying for photo ID will also need to bring proof of residency. Documents that DMV will accept include employee photo ID cards, paycheck stubs, utility bills, bank statements, mortgage documents, certified school records, college enrollment forms and letters from parole agents.
The Government Accountability Board recommends that citizens start the process of obtaining valid ID well in advance of elections to allow themselves enough time to obtain the necessary documents.
Normally, there is a $28 fee for obtaining state photo ID. However, the new law requires the DMV to provide free ID cards to anyone who says they need it to vote.
Those who fail to bring their ID with them will be allowed to vote on provisional ballots. To have their vote counted, they must return with valid ID to the municipal clerk’s office by 5 p.m. the following Friday.
Robbins said the Waupaca County Board of Canvassers are scheduled to meet on the Thursday after the election. If any voters return with valid ID on a Friday, the board will have to reconvene to recount the vote.
Another change in Wisconsin’s voting law that took effect this year is the required length of residency.
“You now have to be a resident in your municipality for at least 28 days. It used to be 10 days,” Robbins said.
When asked about voter fraud in Waupaca County, Robbins said she has never seen a case of intentional voter fraud.
“We once had a 91-year-old woman who voted by absentee ballot in Waupaca County, then moved to a nursing home in Outagamie County and forgot that she had already voted,” Robbins said, noting that due to the circumstances and the woman’s age, the district attorney’s office did not prosecute her after conducting an investigation.