A federal judge says the state must improve the information it provides to Wisconsin residents who face problems getting an ID for voting.
U.S. District Judge James Peterson said Thursday that the state’s ID Petition Process (IDPP), which is used when someone is missing key documents like a birth certificate, has been a “wretched failure.” He ordered the state to take steps to improve the information voters get, both at the DMV and through public education efforts, about what to expect when they apply for an ID without key documents or if those documents have errors on them.
The judge declined to completely block Wisconsin’s voter ID requirement, a move requested by liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now after a voting rights advocate recorded multiple interactions with DMV staff that showed them giving wrong or incomplete information to residents. Still, attorney Josh Kaul said they are pleased with the judge’s order. “He ordered a lot of reforms that we think are going to help make it easier for people to access the right to vote and get the IDs they need to vote,” he said.
Peterson told the state that the DMV will need to have new materials available by Monday about the IDPP, although it was not immediately clear how those would be distributed to voters. He also ordered weekly updates on how the process is running through the election, and for the state to provide a way for people to report problems.
Wisconsin’s voter ID law, passed by Republican lawmakers in 2011, has been a source of controversy for much of the past five years. It spent several years blocked by court battles, before eventually being upheld. Peterson declined to strike it down earlier this year, but did order the state to provide an easy path for everyone to obtain an ID for voting purposes. The hearing this week in Madison was prompted by concerns the state was not complying with that order. OWN executive director Scott Ross said Thursday’s order showed “the judge recognized that the state was not fulfilling its obligations.”
A spokesman for the state Department of Justice said the state will not seek a stay or appeal of the judge’s order.