Wisconsin’s top elections official said Tuesday that hundreds of voters who have already cast absentee ballots for the Nov. 4 election must show or send in a photocopy of acceptable photo identification to their local municipal clerk’s office for those ballots to be counted. Also Tuesday, plaintiffs in a lawsuit that challenged the voter ID requirement said they plan to appeal the ruling by three judges on the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to the full court. That ruling on Friday reinstated the voter ID requirement that had been stalled since 2012 by court challenges. “The panel’s decision allowing this law to take effect this close to the election is a recipe for disaster,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “It will create chaos in election administration, resulting in voter confusion and disenfranchisement. The voters of Wisconsin deserve a chance to cast their ballots free of these obstacles.” Kevin Kennedy, director of the state Government Accountability Board, urged absentee voters to send copies or bring in a valid photo identification such as a driver’s license to their local clerks as soon as possible to ensure their ballots would be counted. IDs can be presented in person or copies can be emailed, faxed or mailed. Kennedy said more than 11,000 absentee ballot requests had been received statewide as of Friday. He said he didn’t know how many had been returned by voters to clerks’ offices but estimated it in the hundreds.
Clerks are being instructed to use “extraordinary measures,” he said, to contact each absentee voter in writing to make sure they understand the new requirement. Overseas and military voters and those who live in a nursing home or other such facility are not required to show a photo ID to vote, he said.
Kennedy also said his agency and other state departments, including the Department of Health Services and the Division of Motor Vehicles, were working to ensure that voters who lacked proper identification would be able to obtain it before the election. The Wisconsin Supreme Court also upheld the photo ID requirement but ordered the state to make identification available for free to those who need it.
The court told the state that it could not require voters to pay for a birth certificate or other supporting documentation. If such proof is not available, the prospective voter can provide an explanation of why it’s not available, the court ordered, along with “whatever documentation is available which states the person’s name and date of birth.” It will then be up to the DMV to determine if the verification is sufficient.