Wisconsin saw its highest turnout for a presidential primary since 1972 this week, which resulted in some people waiting up to two hours to cast their ballots. One voting rights group is worried about why many of those people had to wait, and is calling for state action to make sure it does not happen again.
Tuesday’s election saw the first major test of the state’s voter ID law, which requires voters to show a qualifying government-issued ID to obtain a ballot. Advocates of the rule say the high turnout is evidence it has not disenfranchised voters. However, Andrea Kaminski with the Wisconsin League of Women Voters believes the comparison may not be entirely accurate.
“The law has changed a lot in the last few years,” she said, which may have resulted in some confusion for both poll workers and voters.
Kaminski noted that many of the lines at polling places were at check-in stations and for voter registration. On college campuses in particular, including the UW-Madison and Marquette University, many students were also left waiting to get the documentation needed to make their ID compliant with the law. She said there’s no way to know how many may have given up without casting a ballot.
Many of those who back the requirement, which was passed in 2011 but then held up for several years due to legal challenges, contend the public has had ample time to get the required ID to vote. However, Kaminski said her conversations with voters have shown that “even among well-informed people, there’s still a lot of confusion. It’s not something people think about all the time.”
Going forward, Kaminski argued the continued confusion is a sign that the Legislature should move quickly to help boost public awareness about the requirement, before key state primaries in August and the presidential election in November. “The Legislature should be allocating money to do a full-court voter education effort,” she said.
The Government Accountability Board funds voter education out of its normal budget, and does run a “Bring it to the Ballot” website with information about what voters need to be compliant with the ID requirement. However, an agency spokesman noted this week they have no additional funding available to do additional advertising about the resource.