The state Government Accountability Board is asking lawmakers for money to help raise public awareness about Wisconsin’s Voter ID requirement.
The Board on Tuesday voted 4-2 in favor of asking the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee for $250,000 to help fund a public education campaign. GAB public information officer Reid Magney says it would continue work started when the law was passed five years ago, which was put on hold after lawsuits blocked the requirement. “We know that the Legislature intended for us to conduct a campaign. We started that campaign, it got short,” Magney told board members. “Do we continue that campaign and, if so, how do we do that?”
The state already produced radio and television ads to promote the law, which were then updated after the lengthy legal battle over the requirement ended. The state has posted them online and made them available through the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association for use. However, the agency has no additional funding for a paid campaign. Magney said they could also look at other forms of ads, such as through social media, if the agency had more resources.
The board’s request comes after state Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison), the League of Women Voters, and others urged them to do something to raise awareness about the law, in the wake of long lines and confusion at many polling places during the state’s April 5th primary election. The election was the first major statewide race that the requirement had been in effect, and Taylor said many voters were left confused about whether they had an acceptable government-issued photo ID that would allow them to vote. She told board members that those issues need to be addressed before the presidential election November, where turnout could be much higher. “Now is the time to start doing this campaign, to get on the radio, get on television,” she urged.
The funding would likely come out of about $267,000 in supplemental funding the Finance Committee has access too for emergency spending. Given the small amount of cash on hand, Judge Harold Froehlich questioned whether lawmakers would even give it serious consideration. “We’re spinning out wheels, asking for money,” he argued.
A spokesman for JFC co-chair Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) said they look forward to seeing details of the proposal. The committee could meet later this spring on the request.