When Anita Johnson presented the details of the new Wisconsin law for voter registration at a recent Community Planning Council (CPC) meeting in Lindsay Heights, dozens of community members were all ears.
The new law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, requires every voter to present a current photo ID to be able to participate in the primary elections on Feb. 21. Johnson, an organizer for Citizen Action of Wisconsin, addressed concerns raised by some residents.
“I know some of you are saying, ‘I’ve marched, I’ve voted for years, I did my part, I’m not going to get a voter ID,’ ” Johnson said. “Don’t let this government dictate to you about your right to vote.”
Acceptable identification can be a Wisconsin driver’s license, passport, military ID or state ID. For people who do not have any of those forms of identification, free voter IDs are available at the Department of Transportation. To receive one, applicants must ask specifically for a “voter ID.”
The residency requirement for voting has changed as well. Voters now must prove that they have lived at their current address for at least 10 days, not 28 days as in the past. Johnson recommended that people who have not lived at their new residence for at least 10 days vote at their former polling place.
Some attendees complained that the number of polling places has decreased, making them inconvenient to get to and discouraging people from voting.
“It changes every time I hear about it, and I’ve been to four different meetings,” said community member Phyllis Wofford. “It doesn’t make sense.”
People who have not already registered to vote can do so at the polls on Election Day, but they will be given provisional ballots and must provide residency and identification verification within 48 hours. Those under 18 can register if they will be 18 by the time of the election. Some colleges and universities, including University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Milwaukee Area Technical College, are providing photo IDs for non-resident students who want to vote.
Finally, straight-party votes no longer will be allowed in general elections. Voters must select candidates for each race individually.
“I don’t appreciate the new changes, but I’m appreciative that I know about them,” said Wayne Carter, a CPC committee member and resident of the Metcalfe neighborhood. “I put myself in a position where I can get knowledge because it doesn’t come [on] the TV.”
For more information about the new voter registration law or to find out how to obtain a free voter ID before the February elections, please contact the City of Milwaukee Election Commission at 414-286-3491.