State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
February 21, 2012, marks the first day Wisconsin voters are required to show a photo ID at the polls. For the last few months, including the first round of recall elections, Wisconsin has applied a soft implementation of voter ID.
Soft implementation meant poll workers would ask voters to provide a photo ID and stopped short of actually requiring an ID to vote. If a voter did not have a photo ID, the poll worker informed the elector about the new requirement and provided written information about the voter ID law.
The soft implementation period ensured that people without valid IDs had plenty of time to get their free ID for voting. It also gave the Government Accountability Board (GAB) a chance to train poll workers and conduct a voter ID awareness media campaign.
Beginning with elections February 21, 2012, the soft implementation period is over and the voter ID requirement will be in full effect. This means, in order to have a vote counted on Election Day, every voter must bring an acceptable photo ID to the polls.
The list of acceptable forms of identification is long; it is designed to accommodate as many eligible voters as practicable. In fact, the vast majority of Wisconsinites will find they already have a qualifying ID.
Other than a Wisconsin driver’s license or ID card, electors may also prove their identity by showing a military ID card issued by a U.S. uniformed service; a U.S. passport; a certificate of U.S. naturalization issued within two years of the election; an unexpired, valid for 45 days, driver’s license or ID receipt issued by the state Department of Transportation (DOT); an identification card issued by a federally recognized Indian tribe in this state; or certain college and university IDs.
With each form of ID, expiration dates matter. Expired IDs will not work for voting except that state-issued driver’s licenses and IDs, military IDs, and US passports are currently valid provided they expired after November 2, 2010, the date of the last general election.
Importantly, the name on a voter’s ID card does not need to exactly match their name in the poll book. For example, if your name is Michael in the poll book, but your ID says Mike, you may use that ID to vote. Further, if your ID has an old address, it will also still work for voting.
For those without a valid ID for voting, photo ID cards are available from the state DOT. Visit a local DMV service center to get a free state ID card for voting purposes. Just remember to bring the required documentation, for most people this means a certified birth certificate, utility bill, and a Social Security card.
If you show up to the polls without a valid ID, you do not lose your right to vote. Instead, you will be allowed to vote with a provisional ballot. Your provisional ballot will be counted as a regular vote once you return and display proper ID to your election officials. State statute gives each voter until 4:00 PM the Friday following an election for voters to prove provisional ballots.
If you cannot make it out to the polls, the law will accommodate you as well. For example, absentee voters indefinitely confined due to age, physical illness, infirmity or disability are specifically exempt from the ID requirement.
Additionally, absentee military and overseas voters, as defined by federal law, are exempt from the ID requirement. The Legislature also wrote special accommodations for victims of sensitive crimes, people with recently suspended licenses, and voters residing in residential care facilities.
All of these special considerations are designed to ensure every eligible elector is able to vote. In my work on the voter ID law, my top goals were to write a law that does not disenfranchise and withstands constitutional muster. The current law reflects those priorities.
Voting is not only a right, it is a great responsibility. The photo ID law recognizes the importance of elections by introducing a greater sense of integrity to the process. All Wisconsinites are encouraged to review the new requirements before February 21, 2012.
For additional information and specific answers, all eligible electors should visit the Government Accountability Board (GAB) voter ID website at: www.bringit.wisconsin.gov.