Election officials and civil liberties advocates are predicting that a surprise court ruling that lifted a stay on Wisconsin’s controversial voter-ID law will produce chaos on election day, as estimates suggest that up to 300,000 eligible voters may not have the documentation now required to vote. With only six weeks to go before the general election – including a hotly contested gubernatorial campaign – activists say there is little chance that identification papers can be issued in time to all those who lack them. Thousands of absentee ballots had already been mailed before the ruling on September 12, without any reference to the voter ID requirement. Neil Albrecht, the election commissioner for the City of Milwaukee, where more than 280,000 people voted in the 2012 election, told that Guardian that the limited time in which to implement the law would result in confusion on election day since many voters would likely turn up without the required ID. “When voters struggle, that slows down the operation of a polling place so that it can become very bottle-necked.” Albrecht said that he would be hiring 300 to 400 more poll workers to deal with the expected slowdowns.
The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) would have to issue 6,000 IDs a day in order to serve all 300,000 estimated eligible voters, said Larry Dupuis, the legal director at the ACLU of Wisconsin. “There’s no way they can do that,” he said.
The DMV, the agency charged with issuing these IDs, said that it is not currently planning on adding staff or extra hours in the run-up to the election. Jim Miller, the director of the DMV’s Department of Field Services, said the agency estimates it will get roughly 220 new requests for ID each week. In the week since the decision to allow the ID law to move forward, fewer than 100 people applied for new IDs, according to Miller.
The Government Accountability Board in Madison confirmed that approximately 6,500 absentee ballots had been mailed before the court’s September 12 decision and that they did not include information about the voter ID requirement. Approximately 200 ballots have already been received, and will be considered invalid unless the voters send in a copy of a valid photo ID.