Clerks working to clear voter ID confusion

US Supreme Court holding voter ID law raises many questions
Clerks working to clear voter ID confusion

With the on-again, off-again, on-again and now off-again voter ID law in Wisconsin, county clerks are working to communicate the changes to voters in advance of November’s election. 

“I don’t think we can escape voter confusion now,” said Scott McDonell, Dane County clerk.

The U.S. Supreme Court put the implementation of Wisconsin’s voter ID law on hold for the November election.  With Election Day a little more than three weeks away, the decision blindsided county clerks.

“I was surprised, I was.  We had talked and we thought once the 5 to 5 ruling in Chicago from the 7 th Circuit that that was it.  But I’m grateful for the decision.  I think we could have done a better job getting ready if we had more time,” said McDonell.

McDonell is pulling public service announcements that had been running on local cable channels informing voters of the voter ID requirements.  He says they will work this weekend to develop a new campaign to reach out to voters and let them know an ID will not be required to vote this November.

“There’s going to need to be some outreach to folks saying that now the voter ID law has been suspended, that if you don’t have the ID that you can still come in and vote and you can register,” said McDonell.

The change will also necessitate a change in training for election officials. 

“There was confusion in the first place.  It is going to be easy to tell our election officials. Don’t worry about the voter ID for this election, and focus on all the Election Day processes that you’ve already been trained in and that you already know,” said Maribeth Witzel-Behl, city of Madison clerk.

While it appears voter ID will be put on hold for this coming November election in Wisconsin, McDonell says his office will take advantage of all they have learned if it is implemented in the future.

“We’re saving everything that we’ve done to date.  We assume we may need to use it again in the future. They did not decide the voter ID law is unconstitutional, so we are obviously preparing for this in the future,” said McDonell.