February 5, 2016

Voter registration will allow digital proof of residency

Voters who register at the polls on Election Day will now be able to show their proof of residency on a smart phone or laptop screen, instead of bringing in a paper copy. A policy change approved Tuesday by the Government Accountability Board will allow digital copies of documents, such as a bank statement or utility bill, as acceptable of evidence of where a voter currently lives.

Those documents are reviewed by poll workers for the name and address information when someone registers. Physical copies are not kept.

The policy change is intended to make it easier for voters to register on Election Day. Ann Jacobs with Wisconsin Election Protection says paper copies of many documents commonly used as proof of residency can be hard to come by, as more and more people switch to online forms of payment and no longer receive a physical copy in the mail.

Government Accountability Board attorney Mike Haas cautioned against taking action this close to an election. He says training has not focused on the issue and has actually informed clerks that a paper copy is needed.

Haas also cautioned that current law does not clarify if a digital document is allowed. However, board members argued there’s little difference between a utility bill on a smart phone screen and a printed copy.

The change was unanimously approved by the GAB.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:08)

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