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Legislature acts on election reform measure



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Kedzie (click for larger version)
May 25, 2011 | 07:27 AM
When Wisconsin voters go to the polls, they exercise a fundamental and protected right to shape, and reshape, their government to better reflect their values and principles for a free society. But when someone knowingly acts to misrepresent themselves and engage in fraud at the polling place, that right is taken away from someone else, and the integrity of our elections is called into question.

For years, and following numerous instances of such voter fraud, Wisconsin voters have called on lawmakers to do more in order to address the concern, and now, that call has been answered.

Under new legislation recently approved by the legislature, an elector will be required to provide proof of identification in order to vote by way of a photo ID. Under the legislation, acceptable photo IDs include state-issued ID cards, Wisconsin drivers' licenses, temporary DMV receipts, military IDs, passports, naturalization certificates, IDs issued by Wisconsin-based tribes, and certain student IDs. Students would have to show an accredited college or university ID that includes a photo, current address, expiration date, date of birth and signature.

Voters who arrive at the polls without a photo ID could complete a provisional ballot and then return to the polls with a proper ID. Anyone applying in person at the clerk's office for an absentee ballot would have to show proper ID, and mail-in absentee voters would be required to submit a copy of an ID either with their absentee ballot application, or the absentee ballot itself. A person would be allowed to obtain a Wisconsin identification card from the Department of Transportation free of charge if the person is a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years of age on the date of the next election, and requests the card be provided without charge.

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The bill creates exemptions from the photo ID requirement, including military or overseas electors who vote by absentee ballot, persons whose address is confidential as a result of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking, and nursing home residents or other residential care facilities who vote by absentee ballot and have their residence confirmed by special voting agents or a representative of the facility. A person who received an absentee ballot by mail for a previous election and provided a copy of their identification with that ballot is not required to provide a photo ID with their absentee ballot, so long as they have not changed their name or address since that time.

Requiring voters to present some form of identification is not a new concept and is generally accepted among many other states. In fact, nine states currently require a photo ID for voting, while 19 require some type of identification, but not necessarily a photo ID. Several other state legislatures are considering or are in the process of adopting photo ID requirements, and the courts have found that such requirements are constitutional and enforceable, so long as any impediments to obtaining a photo ID are dealt with in the law.

The federal Help America Vote Act requires all states to request identification from first-time voters who registered to vote by mail but provided no verification of their identity with their mail-in voter registration.

As members of the electorate, we are afforded the opportunity to actively participate in representative democracy in this state and nation, which should neither be taken lightly nor for granted. When that opportunity is compromised by incidents of voter fraud, it is both necessary and appropriate for election reform measures such as this to be implemented and administered to its fullest extent. The photo ID bill is a reasonable requirement which will maintain the integrity of our elections and uphold an established standard of "one person — one vote."

Sen. Kedzie can be reached in Madison at P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882 or by calling toll-free 1 (800) 578-1457. He may be reached in the district at (262) 742-2025 or online at www.senatorkedzie.com.

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