Friday, March 11, 2011

What to Know About Wisconsin’s Voter ID Bill

Summary: Important information for voters and political operatives when Voter ID becomes law.

The Wisconsin State Legislature will soon be passing a Voter ID bill, and it will be quickly signed into law by Governor Walker. Just as the recent move to eliminate collective bargaining was meant to reshape the electoral landscape, so is Voter ID.

The right-wing in Wisconsin says that voter fraud is an ongoing epidemic -- particularly in Milwaukee -- that has allowed Democrats to “steal” elections. The way they see it, there’s no way they could actually lose elections -- people love them! There must be a scam going on.

The truth is that voter fraud is incredibly rare and virtually impossible to get away with. This bill is clearly designed to disenfranchise voters who tend to support Democrats.

But all that aside, here’s what you need to know.

For Voters

For the April 5th election, poll workers will be required to ask for identification. However, you DO NOT need to give it to them if you’re already registered. The bill’s provisions are not enforceable until 2012. Republicans stuck that part in to scare younger and poorer voters (aka, Democrats) from voting this year.

In 2012 you will need one of the following pieces of identification (with up-to-date residency information) to vote:
-- A drivers license
-- A state ID
-- A passport
-- Naturalization papers
-- A military ID
-- A Native American tribal ID

Student IDs will no longer be acceptable. Right now student IDs can be used, with poll workers cross referencing the ID with a list of students living on campus provided by their college. But college students vote more for Democrats than Republicans, so they will now need their driver’s license (or another state-issued ID) to include their campus address to vote there.

Similarly, disabled veteran cards will not be accepted. Disabled veterans tend to vote for candidates who support things like BadgerCare, so they will need another form of identification.

It should be mentioned that if you don’t have your ID the day of the election, you can still cast a provisional ballot, but you must show an election clerk your ID by 4pm on the Friday after the election.

Additional things you must do to vote:
-- Register early (same-day registration is going away, because it helps busy working people and college students vote)

-- Live at your residence 28 days before the election (the current 10-day requirement helps the mobile population cast their ballots, and studies show these voters tend to be younger and more progressive)

-- Sign your name in the voter log when you go to the polls

For Political Operatives

Democratic consultants and campaign staffers will need to start to focus on getting their supporters to climb the new barriers to voting.

Here are three things we will need to start doing:

1) Registering Voters Early. Operatives for our side already do it in most states; we just need to start to do it here too. Hiring organizers, sending voter registration applications in mailers and other efforts will be required. This will be especially important on college campuses and in the inner-city.

2) Better Voter Education. Because Wisconsin has a history of relaxed voting laws, Democrats have never seen a strong need for educating voters on what they need to do to vote. That’s going to have to change. We will need to communicate the law in a clear and effective manner to re-enfranchise our voters.

3) Fight for Repeal. The law is going to pass, and it’s going to pass soon. The Republicans in Madison work in lock-step and can pass anything they want. Looking forward, however, we must support candidates who promise to roll-back this attack on voting rights. Climbing barriers to voting will distract us from focusing on other important campaign operations -- we must break the barriers.

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