LaCROSSE TRIBUNE: Though law still not in effect, election workers will be required to ask for ID

July 19, 2011
Chris Hubbuch

Voters in Tuesday's primary election and next month's state Senate recall won't have to show a picture ID.

But they will be asked.

"It's a soft implementation to give everybody a chance to get used to it," said Reid Magney, spokesman for Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections. "The idea was because this was such a big change we don't want to disenfranchise anyone by springing this on voters.

"This is a way to educate voters who don't have an ID and get the word out."

It's part of Wisconsin's $750,000 campaign to teach people about the changes in voting law that will mostly kick in next year.

The Legislature approved spending almost $1.97 million between now and 2013 to implement the new law that, among other things, will require photo identification for all voters starting in 2012. That doesn't include the cost of expanding Division of Motor Vehicle services, authorized by the budget bill.

Election officials last week delivered lawmakers a report detailing how the money will be spent.

The public information campaign will include multimedia advertising and outreach targeted at elderly voters whose licenses or IDs are likely to have expired, minority populations, voters with disabilities and college students.

There will be waves of advertising in advance of the February 2012 primary election and again before the April 5 general election and presidential primary.

The GAB will also produce brochures, pamphlets and flyers to be distributed to the state's 3.5 million registered voters and nearly 1 million more unregistered people of voting age.

The first piece of literature will be distributed at polls this summer in the nine Senate districts holding recall elections, though the printing costs come out of the municipal clerks' budgets.

The city of La Crosse printed 10,000 flyers, which clerk Teri Lehrke hopes will last through the Aug. 9 recall election.

"We can't run out," she said.

The plan also calls for hiring five temporary workers who will spend the next two years updating the voter registration system, helping with the public information campaign and training local election officials.

The majority of the 1,850 municipal clerks responsible for administering local elections are part-time employees with an annual turnover rate of more than 20 percent, according to the GAB.

The GAB will spend another $500,000 modifying the statewide voter registration system.