Election experts hold voter forum
By Riley Hays
photo by Katie Muelemans
Steve Pickett informs the community about new voter regulations.
An informational forum was held in the student union to explain Wisconsin’s new voter ID law on Nov. 30.
Officials from the Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.), who oversee election regulations, have been holding related sessions throughout the state to prepare voters.
Sponsored by the Campus Activities Board and the League of Women Voters, the meeting provided information about ID requirements that have left some residents puzzled.
“We exist to ensure that people enjoy the right to vote and part of that is making sure that their rights are protected, that they understand what they need to do and that they have the information they need not just to be a voter, but also to be an informed voter,” Irene Strohbeen, co-director of the league’s Appleton chapter, said.
“It’s valuable information for everybody, but I thought it was good to host it at Fox so that students could get this information as well,” senior student activities coordinator Jeff Kuepper said.
The voter ID changes come at a time when Wisconsinites prepare for the upcoming spring and fall elections.
The bill, signed by Governor Walker in late May, requires citizens to show a photo ID to receive a ballot at the polls.
Election specialists advised voters to register early and obtain the necessary ID forms.
Acceptable forms can be either current or have expired before the date of the most recent general election.
These include a current and valid Wisconsin driver’s license or ID card issued by the Department of Transportation (D.o.T.), a military ID card issued by a U.S. uniformed service or a U.S. passport.
Citizens can request a free identification card at a Department of Motor Vehicles center if they show required documents to a D.o.T. agent and check a box at the bottom of the ID application confirming that it will be used for voting purposes.
Voters with religious beliefs against being photographed do not have to provide a photo ID.
These voters must instead sign an affidavit declaring their religious affiliation.
Other ID forms must be unexpired, such as a Wisconsin driving and/or ID receipt (valid for 45 days), a state-issued ID card by a federally recognized American Indian tribe, a certificate of naturalization issued no earlier than two years before the election date or a photo ID issued by a Wisconsin-accredited university, college or technical college.
The student ID card must contain the student’s signature, the date issued and an expiration date no later than two years after its issuance.
UW-Oshkosh student and assistant director of campus activities Robert Baehman believes administrators will have to redesign students’ IDs to meet voter law mandates.
“I can't forsee [administrators] going in and changing the whole ID structure," Baehman said.
Student IDs issued by UW-Fox do not currently meet these requirements.
UW campuses throughout the state are already revamping student IDs so students are ready for elections.
In addition, students must provide a separate document proving enrollment at the institution to vote.
Some students feel the law’s changes may overwhelm voters.
“I think that students without the proper forms of ID won’t take the steps needed to obtain the identification to participate,” freshman Andrea Douville said.
“[The new law] may hinder a young person’s enthusiasm to vote because it will become more difficult and they may not want to spend the time and money in order to get the proper IDs.”
Election specialist Steve Pickett from the G.A.B. wanted students and the community to be involved in the democratic process.
“Democracy only works if people vote, so it’s participatory democracy that [makes a difference].
“If you think something’s important, study the issue, get involved and sometimes it isn’t as easy as everybody thinks it is, but asking questions is always a good way to get started,” Pickett said.
“As we put it, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain about the results,” Strohbeen said.
Unregistered voters can register up to 20 days before the election by downloading a copy of the registration form, GAB-131, fill it out and send to your city’s municipal clerk, in person at your clerk’s office during the “closed registration” period through the Friday before elections, at their district’s polling place or with a special registration deputy.
Poll workers and the clerk’s office require that voters provide a proof of residency to register.
Such documents must have a valid and current address where the voter has lived for at least 28 consecutive days, as opposed to the 10 day requirement of the previous law.
Current address is not mandatory on the required photo ID.
“I don’t think we can stress enough that early registration is really valuable and it will really help when you go to vote and the requirements are a lot easier to deal with,” Strohbeen said.
Further discussion about voting at the polls revealed three major steps.
First, poll workers will ask for your name and address upon arrival.
Poll workers will then ask you to provide a valid photo ID; in the event that you don’t have the required identification, you can vote provisionally but must return to the polling place with your ID or to your municipal clerk by 4 p.m. on the Friday after the election.
Next, voters will have to sign a poll list and if physically incapable, you will be exempt provided the poll worker is made aware.
Absentee and early voters can request ballots by mail, fax or e-mail and must send proof of ID with the ballot.
The law also states that “in-person absentee voters” can cast their ballot with the municipal clerk up to 5 p.m. on the Friday before the election, but must show a photo ID and vote immediately.
Presidential-only voters, hospitalized voters and sequestered jurors will need to contact their municipal clerk before elections.
There are also special provisions for indefinitely confined voters, who state on their application that they’re confined due to age, illness, infirmity or disability, and voters in care facilities.
Exemptions apply for military voters casting an absentee ballot, overseas voters who leave the U.S. temporarily or permanently and are absentee voters, and confidential voters.
Overseas voters who return to the states will need to provide a proof of ID to their municipal clerk.
Individuals requesting a confidential status must show a court order or letter from law enforcement, a domestic abuse shelter staff member or an assistance agency to the clerk.
For a detailed list of identity and residency requirements, to become a trained special registration deputy or for specific questions regarding the voter ID law, visit the GAB’s website or call the board’s help desk at 608-261-2028 or 800-947-3529.
Source: Government Accountability Board’s resource guide and documents regarding changes to the election law.