Becoming a U.S. citizen and registering to vote in Wisconsin used to go hand in hand. But thanks to the state’s new voter ID law, that’s no longer the case.
“It was done intentionally,” says Dorothy Sherman, a Milwaukee County resident and Wisconsin League of Women Voters member who helps new citizens register to vote after their naturalization ceremony. “This administration doesn’t want to be helpful, in terms of helping people register to vote. What they’ve actually done is make the process very difficult.”
Tucked inside the state’s controversial voter ID law, which was signed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker last May, is a provision that no longer allows the state’s non-partisan election agency to train and certify what are known as special registration deputies.
People like Sherman, who were trained and certified through the state Government Accountability Board, could register voters from anywhere in the state. The GAB training was good for two years. That enabled Sherman and other League volunteers to register new U.S. citizens at the federal courthouse in Milwaukee, currently the only site in Wisconsin that holds naturalization ceremonies.
The GAB’s certification program began in 2007. Before it was allowed to stall without funding at the start of 2011 and was then eliminated through the voter ID law, the agency certified 2,000 special registration deputies, according to Reid Magney, a GAB spokesman. Now, anyone who wants to register voters has to be trained and deputized by a municipal clerk.