Madison landlords will now be required to provide voter registration forms to their tenants, following action by the City Council this week. “Because I had none of this information, I had to go around for two hours, even though I left work and had intended to vote, I was nearly unable to vote,” said University of Wisconsin student Rebecca Buel, who supported the measure. “I will be moving apartments again in August and I believe that having my landlord supply me with the information as well as the registration forms will help prevent a situation like this.”
On the other side, James Stopple, President of Madison Property Management, urged defeat of the ordinance. “I’m in the property management industry…please help us keep politics out of the housing industry. My job is property management, not politics.” Madison resident Rosemary also spoke to the council, “Alder Maniaci (Bridget Maniaci, the ordinance’s author) stated at the equal opportunities meeting last week that this proposal was needed so elections were well run. What a slap in the face that is to our election workers, City Clerk Marybeth Witzel-Behl and her hard-working staff. Madison elections already run with great precision.”
Proponents of the ordinance claimed it could save the city money and it’s a necessary response to tighter voting regulations enacted under Governor Scott Walker. UW graduate and renter Kiersten Lombard also addressed the council against the measure, “First of all, in the ASM (Associated Students of Madison) press release it notes how hard it is for students to find time to register between studies and work. Wow. All I have to say to that is wait until you are out of school. I took that as my responsibility and I think that’s how it really should be viewed.”
According to Alder Lisa Subeck, who voted against the ordinance, this law is in addition to the Madison general ordinance Chapter 32. Any violation of Chapter 32, without its own specific fine, is subjected to a fine of $60 – $600 per offense. Each day not in compliance can be a separate offense, and each tenant not receiving a form can be one, as well. So, if a landlord fails to provide a form to 50 tenants, he/she could be charged with 50 offenses. And if he/she fails to provide the form for three days, it appears they could be charged with three offenses per tenant.
Here is the language from the ordinance: Any violation of any section of Chapter 32 of the Madison General Ordinances for which there is not provided a specific penalty shall be subject to a forfeiture of not less than sixty dollars ($60) nor more than six hundred dollars ($600) upon conviction.