Poll Workers Prepare for First Big Election with Voter Photo ID Requirement

Oct 6, 2014

Early voting for the November election begins two weeks from Monday.

As of now, Wisconsin voters will have to present a government-issued photo ID. An appeals court issued that ruling on September 12.

While opponents of the voter ID law are now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to halt it, election leaders are working to educate voters and poll workers.

The job may not be as simple as it sounds.

Photo ID is not a new concept in Wisconsin. The Republican-led Legislature approved it in 2011.

“In 2011 and 2012 we did a lot of work on developing training materials and procedures for poll workers,” says Reid Magney of the state Government Accountability Board.

IDs were mandatory here for one election, before courts blocked the requirement.

“We went through the spring primary in February of 2012, now that was a fairly low turnout, but all the poll workers were trained then, and naturally we’ve had some turnover since then, but we’re confident that the poll workers will know what to do on election day,” Magney says.

Magney says his agency has rolled out training materials for poll workers, guiding them on how to match up a voter to an ID. Some are recycled from the brief period a few years ago, when photo IDs were required. The Government Accountability Board hopes state lawmakers agree Tuesday to spend about $460,000 on an educational campaign for voters, so they know what to do on Election Day.

Even so, Neil Albrecht expects poll workers will have to take time to explain the rules to those who don’t get the message. Albrecht is Milwaukee’s election commissioner. He says while the state will accept a variety of photo IDs, some come with stipulations. Take college identification cards:

“The student ID has to have the student’s photo on it, it has to have the date the ID was issued, it has to have an expiration date on it that cannot be more than two years from the date of issuance, and it has to have the student’s signature on it. In addition to that, the student has to provide some document that demonstrates that they are currently enrolled at the college or university,” Albrecht says.

Albrecht says there’s another potential wrinkle. Some people whose driver’s license is valid as photo ID will need to bring other materials too, if they plan to register to vote.

“You have somebody with a driver’s license that has a previous address on it, then they’re going to need to produce a second document called a ‘proof of residence’ document, and that would be something with their name and current address on it, and that’s what they’ll need to be able to register to vote,” Albrecht says.

And poll workers will have to be up to speed with the digital age, says Gina Kozlik, Waukesha’s clerk-treasurer. She says voters who don’t have a hard copy of a document showing they live in the district can show a record on their smart phone or tablet.

“It has to meet all the same requirements that a paper document would. A cell phone bill that has the person’s name and address and is a current bill within 90 days, a bank statement, those types of things can be viewed by our poll workers and used as long as they can get the same information off that electronic media as they would a paper document,” Kozlik says.

Kozlik says poll workers have to be responsible for so many details, that she’s holding off on training for a couple weeks. She says she wants it to be as late as possible so the information is fresh in workers’ minds on November 4.