Without money to advertise the state’s new law requiring voters to bring a photo ID to the polls, state officials are appealing to broadcasters to spread the word.
The long-delayed voter ID requirement takes effect in a statewide election for the first time at the Feb. 16 spring primary.
Government Accountability Board director Kevin Kennedy on Monday showcased voter ID public service announcements that urge voters to “bring it to the ballot.” For voters who lack an ID that meets the requirement, they explain how to get one.
“We think it’s important, before the election season starts, to remind people about the need to have a picture ID when you get to the polls,” Kennedy said.
Implementation of the voter ID requirement has been in limbo since it was enacted in 2011 — except for a sparsely attended primary in early 2012 — while a string of court challenges to the law were being resolved.
That changed in March, when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of one of the court challenges.
Since then, Kennedy said the board has begun preparing for voter ID to take effect.
Officials have held educational sessions with community groups to discuss the requirement and created a voter ID website, bringit.wisconsin.gov.
They also are asking TV and radio stations to air the public service announcements in place of paid advertising.
But nothing requires the stations to do so. Critics note the board has no money for paid advertising to raise awareness of the law, a step taken by other states that implemented voter ID.
At least one group, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, has called on lawmakers to provide such funding in the waning days of the 2016 session.
Kennedy said Monday that more money “would be helpful” but added that “we’re not going to sit on our hands” if it doesn’t materialize.
“If money’s available, we’re prepared to go forward,” Kennedy said.
Efforts to raise public awareness of voter ID have been hampered repeatedly by the stop-and-start nature of the court proceedings related to the law.
In 2011, lawmakers provided $1.9 million to the board for voter ID implementation — $436,000 of which was set aside for a public education campaign.
The board spent about $181,000 of that crafting much of the campaign it showcased Monday. But a 2012 court order halted the implementation of voter ID.
What was left of that money either was spent elsewhere or was returned to the state treasury, board spokesman Reid Magney said.
In September 2014 — with voter ID expected to be in effect for that year’s general election — the board asked lawmakers for about $461,000 for a TV and radio campaign. But days later, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order of its own, blocking implementation of voter ID for the upcoming election.
The ID requirement says voters must come to the polls with one of a list of approved photo IDs that include their signature, such as a Wisconsin driver’s license, U.S. passport or U.S. military ID. Some student and tribal IDs qualify if they’re not expired.
Student IDs also must be accompanied by a separate document that proves enrollment, such as a tuition statement.