No photo ID this election? No problem

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The back and forth political fight over voter ID took a surprising turn late last week when the U.S. Supreme Court ordered that the photo ID requirement will not be in effect for the November 4 General Election. 

The decision irked Republicans and caused Democrats to celebrate. Meanwhile, it caused municipal clerks across the state to change course after spending several weeks preparing for new photo ID requirements.

It came just hours after the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) sent out a press release announcing its “Bring It to the Ballot” multimedia campaign, which was designed to educate Wisconsin residents about the voter photo ID law.

Starting over the weekend, the GAB planned to spend more than $400,000 on the statewide paid advertising campaign that would run in the three weeks leading up to the election. The campaign was to include TV, radio, online and some billboard ads.

But the court’s decision caused the GAB to instead turn its sights to educating the clerks who will run local polling places.

In essence, the ruling means clerks and voters can return to business as usual, and no photo ID will be required in order to cast a ballot.

“As you may have learned already, last night the U.S. Supreme Court ordered that the photo ID requirement will not be in effect for the November 4, 2014 General Election,” stated a GAB memo sent to clerks on Oct. 10, the day after the ruling. “The Court, by a 6-3 vote, reinstated an injunction against the law which was previously issued by the federal court in the Eastern District of Wisconsin.”

The Supreme Court’s order will be in effect until either the Court rules on the plaintiff’s appeal if an appeal is filed within 90 days, or until the expiration of the appeal deadline in 90 days.

“The ruling means the requirement is gone just for this election,” said Middleton clerk Lorie Burns.

“The rule is not completely gone,” agreed Alyssa Gross, the village clerk in Mount Horeb. “It could come back after the election. We were told it’s on hold.”

 “Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.) staff and local election officials have worked diligently to implement the photo ID requirement since the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals order of September 12, 2014, and we appreciate that effort to assist and educate voters and election inspectors,” continued the GAB statement. 

With 25 days remaining before Election Day, the GAB and local clerks will now focus on implementing procedures without the photo ID requirement, providing updated training to election inspectors, and informing voters about the proper procedures during absentee voting and at polling places.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02) expressed relief about the ruling.

“I am relieved the Supreme Court has recognized the damage Wisconsin’s Voter ID law could have on our democracy,” said Pocan. “Poorly implementing a bad law would have been the worst possible outcome for Wisconsin voters.  Implementing Voter ID in such a short amount of time would have disenfranchised voters across the state and could have brought 2014 election results into question.”

Republicans argue that requiring photo ID will help prevent voter fraud. Democrats contend the measure was actually designed to disenfranchise liberal voters.


What last week’s Supreme

Court ruling means

All absentee ballots should be processed without requiring that the elector submit a copy of his or her photo ID, including ballots which were issued prior to the Court of Appeals order of September 12, 2014.  Any absentee ballot requests which you have been holding because a copy of the photo ID has not been submitted must be immediately fulfilled.  Revised uniform instructions have been posted at which we encourage you to use for new absentee ballot requests.  Absentee ballots and ballots cast on Election Day by electors who do not submit a photo ID, and which are otherwise valid, are not to be treated as provisional ballots.

While election officials are not to require electors to provide or present photo ID as a condition of obtaining a ballot, clerks should continue to process any photo ID that is submitted during the mail-in absentee process.  The copy of the Photo ID should be retained with the voter’s file and the clerk must keep a record that photo ID has been submitted for that voter, by using either the Statewide Voter Registration System or some other documentation.  If the photo ID requirement is reinstated for future elections, a copy that is submitted by a mail-in absentee voter will satisfy the photo ID requirement for future mail absentee requests, provided that the elector does not change his or her name or address.

If clerks have sent absentee ballots to electors who reside in a residential care facility that is eligible for special voting deputy service, but which will not be served by special voting deputies, and who are also not indefinitely confined, a letter should be sent indicating that the photo ID requirement is enjoined and they are not required to either provide a copy of their proof of identification with their ballot or have an authorized representative of the facility verify their identity. 

Election inspectors must not request that an elector present a photo ID before a ballot is issued.  If an elector offers to present a photo ID, the inspector should advise the voter that the requirement is not in effect.  Inspectors should work to avoid creating an impression for voters waiting in line that they will need to present a photo ID.  No signs should be posted which state or imply that the elector must present a photo ID as a condition of receiving a ballot.

The GAB-190 and Wisconsin Election Data Collection System (WEDCS) have been revised to eliminate the option to record provisional ballots issued due to a voter not presenting photo ID. 

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