Photo ID a must for Wisconsin voters in 2016

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Frank Schultz
Sunday, December 27, 2015

JANESVILLE—Anyone thinking of voting in 2016 might want to make a New Year's resolution to make sure they have proper identification.

After lengthy political and court battles, a bill passed in 2011 is now law: Wisconsin voters must present an approved form of identification that includes a photo in order to vote.

A driver's license or Wisconsin ID card are valid for voting, so most people are already ready.

Also valid for voting:

-- A receipt for a driving license or state ID, which includes a photograph.

-- A United States uniformed services ID.

-- A passport book or card that is not expired or which expired after the most recent general election, Nov. 4, 2014.

-- A certificate of naturalization not issued more than two years before the date of the election.

-- A tribal ID

-- A university/college/technical college ID that expires no later than two years after date of issuance, along with proof of enrollment, such as a tuition payment receipt, class schedule or letter from the dean of students confirming enrollment.

Those who don't have any of those must take action if they want to vote.

For some, the process will mean getting a copy of a birth certificate, and if the original document was issued in another state, that could take days.

“I'd hate for somebody not to be able to vote just because they didn't plan far enough ahead to get the document they need,” Rock County Clerk Lisa Tollefson said.

See below for more details about getting a free photo ID card.

Wisconsin actually had one election—the primary in February 2012—when photo ID was required to vote. It went smoothly in southern Wisconsin. But voter turnout in February is meager, so the law faces a more robust test this year.

Tollefson said voters should expect the voting process to last a bit longer than in the past because poll workers must inspect their cards and faces. That could mean longer lines when voting is heavy.

The process is not complicated. A voter will state name and address, as usual, and then show the ID.

The poll workers will check the ID and poll book to confirm the voter is registered, and then the voter will sign the poll book.

The address on the ID card does not have to match the address in the poll book, Tollefson said.

“Be patient with the poll workers,” because they take an oath to follow the law, Tollefson said.

If everything checks out, poll workers will give the voter a ballot.

Wisconsin voters will have the opportunity to vote four times in the coming year:

-- Feb. 16 spring primary.

-- April 5 spring election for nonpartisan offices, together with the presidential preference primary.

-- Aug. 9 fall partisan primary.

-- Nov. 8 general election, which includes election of a new president.

The fall voter turnout undoubtedly will be the biggest since 2012 because many voters show up only for presidential votes.

Some people are exempted from the photo ID law: those in the military or who live permanently overseas or are classified as a confidential elector.

Those who need an ID to vote should apply for a driver's license or state ID card from the Division of Motor Vehicles. Residents are allowed to possess one or the other, not both.

When applying for the ID card, check the box marked free ID for voting.

The DMV will need a birth certificate or certificate of naturalization and Social Security number.

ID applicants also need a proof of residence that shows an address, such as a rent receipt or utility bill, Tollefson said.

Those whose names changed since birth must show a document such as marriage certificate or divorce papers.

The DMV will search for a birth certificate for people who don't have theirs, Tollefson said. That process could take a week or more, especially if the original record is in another state.

If a person shows up to vote without a photo ID, they can cast a provisional ballot, which is not counted immediately. The voter must return to the polling place with a valid ID or present the ID to their municipal clerk's office by 4 p.m. the Friday after the election, Tollefson said.

One other New Year's resolution Tollefson recommends: If you're not registered to vote, get it done now. Wisconsin allows same-day registration, but who wants to stand in line on Election Day?

Registering to vote requires proof of residency, such as a driving license with correct address, or if the address is wrong, a document showing the correct address, such as a utility bill.

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