With new Voter ID requirements set to begin next year, the state is working to make it easier to access Division of Motor Vehicles service centers across the state. The law passed earlier this year requires the DMV to offer at least 20 hours of service a week in each county.
The DMV Field Services Director Kristina Boardman says an initial review of hours across the state showed at least 32 counties fell short of the 20 hour requirement. A draft plan from the agency would adjust the number of center locations and add about 625 hours per week for customers to access services to obtain a photo ID card.
The plan is drawing fire though because it would close locations in about 16 counties that currently have multiple service centers. State Representative Andy Jorgensen (D-Fort Atkinson) says it would end service in his hometown of Fort Atkinson, which currently operates two days a week.
Jorgensen says that would force customers to travel at least 30 minutes to Watertown to get an ID. With no public transportation options available, he worries it could result in people who need the IDs to vote being disenfranchised if they can’t get to a service center before next year.
Jorgensen argues the proposed closures are driven by politics, but Boardman says the plan is based on what the DMV believes is the most effective use of the resources it has available. In the case of Jefferson County, she says the factors that influenced the proposal were that Watertown has a population almost three times the size of Fort Atkinson and also has a permanent service center already in place.
Boardman also notes that the photo IDs are good for eight years and options to renew them for another eight years online are growing. As a result, she says those who need to get an ID card to vote may only need to go to a service center once every 16 years to obtain one.
DMV officials are moving quickly on the proposal with plans to finalize it by the end of this week. Boardman says that’s because they want to make sure new facilities can be leased and set up quickly so there’s enough time to begin issuing IDs before the requirement officially kicks in next year.