New rules aimed at helping those without documentation obtain photo IDs

Gov. Scott Walker announced new rules aimed at helping those with trouble producing documentation obtain photo IDs for voting. Free UW student voter IDs were available at campus polling stations for students during the April 5 election.

Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday announced new rules for obtaining a voter ID aimed at making it easier for those who have trouble producing the necessary documentation.

The announcement comes a month after a federal appeals court sided with groups challenging the 2011 law in court and days before a separate federal challenge to the law is scheduled for a trial in the Madison-based U.S. District Court.

The law was in effect for the April 5 primary election, but the appellate decision gives a federal district judge based in Milwaukee the ability to issue rules for how eligible voters can still cast a ballot if they have trouble obtaining a required ID.

The new rules from the Department of Transportation appear to address the same issues raised by the federal appellate court, though opponents of the law say they don’t go far enough.

The Division of Motor Vehicles, which has issued free photo IDs for voting since 2011, will be able to issue photo ID receipts to those who are in the process of obtaining photo ID cards for voting but are unable to produce the necessary documents in time for an election, Walker’s office said in a statement.

The measure could help those who have errors on documentation, such as a misspelled name on a birth certificate, Walker’s office said.

“Voter ID is about making it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” Walker said in a statement. “This action ensures an individual is still able to vote while they work to obtain documentation needed for a free voter I.D. card.”

Karyn Rotker, senior legal counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, which filed the lawsuit in Milwaukee challenging the law, said the provision won’t help voters without proper documentation who go to the DMV on or right before election day.

Part of the new rule says those without proper documentation will be mailed a receipt within six days, but someone who files a provisional ballot must provide a photo ID or receipt within three days.

“It is clear just looking at it on the face that there are going to be voters who are left out,” Rotker said.

Scot Ross, executive director of liberal group One Wisconsin Now, said OWN lawyers are reviewing the new rule.

In a separate lawsuit, the group is challenging the state’s recent changes to voting-related laws saying they have made it harder for certain Democratic constituencies such as students and minorities to vote.

The case has a trial scheduled to begin Monday in Madison, though a judge could rule any day now on a state motion to rule in its favor without a trial.

“This is an administration that time and again has manipulated the rules on voting to gain partisan advantage, and the fact remains that legal voters have been and will be denied the franchise because of Gov. Walker and Republicans’ voter ID requirement,” Ross said.

The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin issued a report this week that found the voter ID requirement didn’t cause widespread problems in the April 5 election, but problems with voters being unable to produce a photo ID were common in polling locations with heavy student populations.

League executive director Andrea Kaminski said the new rule doesn’t go very far in addressing the problem. Other than scrapping the law entirely, she said a better approach would be to allow those without a lawful ID to sign an affidavit attesting to their identity.

“It would address those concerns in the absolute minimal way,” Kaminski said of the new rule.

Attorney General Brad Schimel recently said in an interview with WKOW-TV that the voter ID lawsuits could be moot if the state allowed someone who has difficulty obtaining a voter ID to sign an affidavit.

Capital W: Plug in to Wisconsin politics

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