MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin election official expressed concern Tuesday that the Department of Transportation might not be able to get voting credentials to people who lack photo identification on Election Day in time to ensure that their ballots will count.
Republican legislators imposed a requirement on voters in 2011 to produce photo identification at the polls. The mandate has survived several court challenges and will be in place for the Nov. 8 presidential election.
The DOT offers free photo IDs for voting, but Democrats have long complained that people who lack the proper documents, such as birth certificates, can’t obtain them.
The DOT responded to those complaints in 2014 with a process that allows people to petition the agency for a free ID. Petitioners must show documents proving their identity and Wisconsin residency; if the agency determines the petitioner is an eligible voter he or she gets an ID. Last year, the DOT modified the process to allow anyone who enters the petition process to vote using a special credential issued through the mail.
Ann Jacobs, a member of the state Elections Commission, said during a meeting Tuesday that people who enter the petition process on Election Day likely won’t have their votes count because credentials won’t arrive in time.
They can cast a provisional ballot without credentials, but they would have only until the Friday after the election to satisfy the identification requirement. Since the credentials likely wouldn’t arrive in the mail until the following week, their provisional ballots would be invalidated, Jacobs said.
“Someone who lacks ID on Election Day can’t vote,” she said.
Jacobs suggested that the DOT issue credentials to petitioners over the counter. Commission spokesman Reid Magney said the DOT doesn’t do that because it needs several days to try to verify the documents petitioners provide.
DOT spokeswoman Patricia Mayers had no immediate comment on Jacobs’ concerns.
Commission Administrator Mike Haas said his staff plans to communicate with the DOT about how it will handle Election Day petitioners. But he cautioned that all the commission can do is communicate the DOT’s position to the public.
Jacobs is an injury lawyer with a background in election law. Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, a La Crosse Democrat, appointed her to the Elections Commission.
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