Wisconsin’s new voting laws
Photo ID will be required in 2016
By Robert Cloud
Wisconsin will see significant changes in voting laws in a year with four elections.
A bill is being considered this week in the state Senate that would allow online voter registration.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the most recent challenge to the 2011 voter ID law. That opens the way for its enforcement, beginning with the Feb. 16 spring primary election.
Waupaca County Clerk Mary Robbins stresses the difference between voter registration and voter identification.
“To register to vote, you must have acceptable proof of residence,” Robbins said. “You only need a photo ID to vote.”
Acceptable proof of residence includes a valid and unexpired Wisconsin driver’s license or state identification card. College or tech school IDs with photos are also acceptable.
“The best proof of residency is a current and valid driver’s license,” Robbins said.
However, other valid documents include property tax bills, residential leases, utility bills, bank or credit union statements, paycheck stubs, employee ID badges. The documents must indicate the citizen’s address.
“You can even bring in a cellphone and show an electronic copy of a bill if you pay online,” Robbins said.
To be eligible to vote, citizens must live at their current residence at least 28 days prior to the election.
Citizens must register to vote with the municipal clerk in the city, village or town where they live.
The one-page registration form may be obtained from the clerk, then returned in person or by mail.
If the form is mailed, then photocopies of eligible proof-of-residency documents must be included.
Current state law only allows municipal clerks and special registration deputies to register voters.
When civic groups, such the League of Women Voters, conduct registration drives, their volunteers must undergo training and be certified as special registration deputies.
Shane Olsen, a senior at Waupaca High School, hopes to encourage his classmates to vote in this year’s presidential election.
Since he is not a certified registration deputy, Olsen will not be registering students. He will be distributing information and registration forms so they may register themselves.
“My plan is to get a table at the high school where we can give students all the forms they need to register to vote,” Olson said.
Olsen said the students may drop their registration forms off with their municipal clerks, mail them in or bring them to the polling site when they vote.
“I will also be informing them that they need to bring photo ID,” Olsen said.
Olsen said he hopes to establish a tradition where students are encouraged to register and vote.
“I strongly believe our democracy works best when the greatest number of people participate in the political process,” he said.
Citizens may also go to https://myvote.wi.gov/ to obtain registration forms and information about where they need to go to register. State law does not currently allow online registration.
However, a Senate bill authored by Sen. Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, would allow online voter registration. It is scheduled for a vote in the Senate this week.
LeMahieu said the bill would make it easier for voters to register.
However, critics of the bill note it eliminates special registration deputies, making it more difficult for civic groups to conduct registration drives.
If enacted, the bill would also require those registering online to have a driver’s license or state-issued ID.
Voters will now need to bring an unexpired photo ID with them to the polls.
Valid ID includes a driver’s license, state ID, military ID, passport, college ID with photo, tribal ID.
“A photo ID does not have to include an address,” Robbins said. “Poll workers will be looking to see if the name on the ID conforms to the name of the registered voter and the photo looks reasonably like the person voting.”
She said voters cannot use an out-of-state driver’s license or ID card, club membership cards or business cards when they go to the polls.
Valid IDs must either be unexpired or have expired no sooner than Nov. 4, 2014.
A driver’s license that has been revoked or suspended remains valid at the polling site.
Citizens whose licenses have been confiscated by police or the court may vote if they bring in a citation or notice to revoke dated within 60 days of the election.
Those who do not have a valid driver’s license must go to an office of the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles.
At the DMV, they must complete two forms: a Wisconsin Identification Card Application and a Document Verification Process form.
To obtain the state ID, the applicant must also bring in documentation, such as a birth certificate, a driver’s license from any state that has not expired for more than eight years, a Social Security card, a valid photo college ID, a passport that has not expired for more than five years or a marriage certificate.
Go to http://wisconsindot.gov/Pages/dmv/license-drvs/how-to-apply/identity.aspx for more information about proof of identity.
The state ID is free if the applicant informs the DMV the ID is needed to vote.