Sep 16, 2014

Wisconsin Chaos—Elections Board: Unequal Protection to Carry out Appellate Court Order

Wisconsin Governmental Accountability Board (GAB) on complying with Seventh Circuit panel's September 12 order: Some voters need copies of photo voter ID; some need photo voter ID and some don't need voter photo ID at all.

The cases are Ruthelle Frank v. Scott Walker (14-2058), and Milwaukee Branch of NAACP v. Walker.

One wonders if the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has the faintest clue about what is going on in Wisconsin: Chaos and a state elections board (GAB) ordering unequal treatment for different classes of voters in ad hoc rules changing almost daily.

This is what happens when a clueless appellate court changes the rules on the eve of the election.

Amid confusing and variant rules for one class of citizens who are more equal under the Court-ordered voting regime than others, we note we have all heard of Get Out the Vote (GOTV) projects employed by political campaigns.

Now we have Get Out the ID (GOID), and it is employed by municipal clerks, per the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB), amid the confusing Appellate Court-ordered voting regime. Nice work, Easterbrook, Sykes and Tinder.

Although the clown car quality of the panel-imposed voter ID regime is funny in one sense, Wisconsin Act 23 as applied in this ad hoc system presents very unfunny Equal Protection problems.

Wonder if Judge Frank Easterbrook has the integrity to stay his panel's ludicrous order and conclusion (put on the court's docket at 3:54 p.m. last Friday) 53 days out from Election Day, and made before Easterbrook and his colleagues researched the law and facts of this case and before the panel wrote an opinion.

Maybe Easterbrook is thinking about something else.

Thanks to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit panel's order, chaos is the order of the rest of the Wisconsin election.

One class of voter, those 100s who been mailed absentee ballots and sent the ballot back, will now have to present copies of acceptable IDs, whereas the rest of Wisconsin citizens [excepting military and overseas voters who won't need IDs] will have to present real IDs vis a vis copies when they vote in person.

This class of voters followed the rules, and the federal appellate court changed the rules, to the approval of the Republican Party.

Wisconsin Act 23 says nothing about copies of IDs being acceptable.

However, clerks are being urged to actively contact voters and inform them of the new voting rules, rules with which they must comply or be disenfranchised because the rules were changed so late.

"The law is clear that most absentee ballots must be accompanied by a copy of the voter’s ID," said Kevin Kennedy, whose position is not identified on the GAB's Kevin Kennedy's Prepared Remarks on Voter ID for 9-16-2014 News Conference page, so we'll call Kennedy, Executive Director of GOID.

By the way, according to the DMV (implementing Act 23), it may take 14 days for free photo voter ID to be mailed to voters from California, a position Kennedy contradicts when he says, "Voters who do need to can get an ID get a free ID at the Wisconsin DMV office, even if they do not have a birth certificate." Whose right, Kennedy or the DMV?

The DMV phone message advises voters that IDs are not available at the DMV, just the okay for the IDs to mailed from California which may or may not take longer than 14 days. Dial (608) 266-2353 of the Wisconsin DMV, press 3; then navigate the long phone-answering tree, then press one, then listen to this recording: "If you are waiting for a driver license or identification card to arrive through the mail and it has been at least 14 days since you applied, press one now." Not sure what happens then.

Here are Kennedy's remarks:

Let me reiterate what I said on Friday after the court decision came down: We are taking every step to fully implement the voter ID law for the November General Election.

Implementing voter photo ID this close to an election will not be easy, but the G.A.B. and Wisconsin’s clerks are up to the challenge.

This is not the first time local election officials have been called upon to step up and serve the voters in a pinch.  We ask a lot of our local election officials – many of whom are part time—and we appreciate their efforts.

Local election officials and our office will be making extraordinary efforts to ensure that all eligible voters are able to participate in the process and have their ballots counted.

Here is what we’ve done and what we will be doing:

We are training clerks and election workers. 

We have an excellent training staff, and we are leveraging the power of the Internet with webinars and online training videos. 

Clerks and election workers were well trained for 2012, but there has been turnover since then.

We have developed extensive materials for clerks and the public about voter ID which will be posted to our website.

The most pressing problem now is absentee ballots.

The law is clear that most absentee ballots must be accompanied by a copy of the voter’s ID.

We believe several thousand absentee ballots have already been mailed to voters without notification that they must provide a copy of their ID, but we do not have an exact number. 

A few hundred absentee ballots have already been voted and returned to clerks.

On Friday we ordered clerks to stop sending out ballots until we could determine procedures for contacting voters about the need to provide a copy of photo ID.

Today we are providing guidance to clerks about how to deal with these absentee ballots as well as current requests for ballots that have not been mailed.

For those ballots that have already gone out, clerks will have to contact voters and inform them they need to submit a copy of their photo ID before their vote will be counted. The G.A.B. has developed a communication for clerks to use.

For current absentee ballot requests that have been received, clerks will have to contact voters and inform them they need to submit a copy of their photo ID before the clerk will mail their ballot.
Going forward, all absentee ballot requests will have to include a copy of the voter’s photo ID, if required. If it is not included, clerks will follow up and inform them they need to submit a copy of their photo ID before the clerk will mail their absentee ballot.

Clerks will have to send voter ID instructions along with absentee ballots. 

The G.A.B. has developed instructions for clerks to use.

Some absentee voters do not need photo IDs.  These include military and overseas voters. 

In Wisconsin, voters who are indefinitely confined due to illness, age, or infirmity do not need to provide a photo ID with their absentee ballot.

These are the challenges we’re facing: Voters need to be reminded of the basics.

Most voters already have the ID they need to vote. 

These include a Wisconsin driver license, state ID, temporary driver license or state ID receipt from the DMV, U.S. passport, military service ID, tribal ID or certificate of naturalization. Most people do not need to get a separate ID card to vote.

Voters who do need to can get an ID get a free ID at the Wisconsin DMV office, even if they do not have a birth certificate.

The address on your ID does not have to match the address on the poll list.

Your name on your ID does not have to match the poll list exactly.  For example, James works for Jim, Katherine for Katie, etc.  If one has your middle name and the other has your middle initial, that’s OK too.

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