Wisconsin’s recall elections are serving as a “soft implementation” of the new voter ID law, and poll workers and clerks are already expressing concerns about the new process. Even with modest turnout, voters experienced long waits and confusion, alarming clerks for future elections.
The concerns of elections officials and poll workers – including voice fears about long lines stretching from two to three hours, frustrated voters leaving before casting a ballot, anger revolving around poll book signatures and IDs, and drastically understaffed polls – were captured in a letter from the Madison City Clerk, Maribeth Witzel-Behl.
Here are key parts of her letter:
Last week’s special election gave us a “soft implementation” of the new voter ID law. We held a debriefing with our chief inspectors earlier this week. Here is a brief summary of the issues that were raised at that meeting:
- Voters were angry about having the sign the poll book, and were worried about who will have access to their signatures after the election. Some voters were so upset about having to sign the poll book that they left without voting.
- Between showing ID and signing the poll book, the amount of time each voter needs to spend at the poll book has at least doubled.
- Olbrich Gardens needed twice as many Election Officials to serve half the number of voters it had last April.
- We will need to split the poll books, at least into A-L and M-Z, for even small elections now because of the way the new law slows down the line of voters.
- The minimum number of Election Officials needed at each polling place will increase from 5 workers to 9 workers for small elections at polling places that have only one ward, because of the need to check IDs and split the poll books.
- The slower lines made it impossible for some polling places to process their absentee ballots until after 8 p.m.
- Election Officials are worried about election observers potentially challenging whether a voter has a disability that prevents him or her from signing the poll book. We will thoroughly train our Election Officials in this area to prevent frivolous challenges.
- Election Officials are very concerned about dealing with voter lines that could easily become two or three hours long. They do not want voters to give up and leave without voting.
- Election Officials are also concerned about concealed weapons at the polls.
We have developed three separate processes for checking identification cards. Each chief inspector will need to figure out which process works best for their polling place configuration. We are still waiting for the Government Accountability Board to provide guidance on how we will handle the voter ID requirements for absentee ballots. The GAB has been busy dealing with the recount and recall elections, but will be providing information at the clerk convention in August. Beginning in September, we will offer presentations throughout the community to educate voters on the requirements of the new law and on how they can get a free ID for voting purposes.
If you know of a group or neighborhood association that would be interested in a presentation, please have them contact email@example.com or 266-4601. The Department of Civil Rights is partnering with the Clerk’s Office to connect with groups that are unlikely to have current state identification cards. The Department of Civil Rights has developed an extensive outreach plan after identifying the key groups that do not have a current Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID card:
- 23% of persons aged 65 and older
- 17% of white men and women
- 55% of all African American males
- 49% of all African American women
- 46% of Latino men
- 59% of Latina women
- 78% of African American males age 18-24
- 66% of African American women age 18-24
Information on the new law is available at http://www.cityofmadison.com/clerk/PhotoIDDetails.cfm.
If you want to help Rock the Vote work with people who don’t have IDs, sign up to volunteer with our “Got ID?”