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Report finds voter ID law created problems at the polls

Election inspectors Janet Hastings (left) and Dorothy Mattke distribute ballots at the Pardeeville Village Hall during the April 5 election.

Wisconsin’s new voter ID law caused few problems for most voters, though it had “significant impact” in student-heavy areas, according to a new report.

The report from the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin also found confusion among poll workers and voters about acceptable documents for same-day voter registration.

“The new laws at least cause confusion, and at worst are misapplied by election officials and prevent eligible citizens from voting,” the report states.

It recommends additional voter education, more poll workers to handle slow downs caused by the voter ID law and better training of elected officials.

The study was based on observations from 103 volunteers at 202 polling sites across Wisconsin during the April 5 election.

At a quarter of those sites there were problems with poll workers not properly understanding which registration and photo ID documents were acceptable.

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The report cited specific examples where otherwise eligible voters were unable to produce the required photo ID to vote, including a young man living in Eau Claire with a Minnesota driver’s license and a disabled veteran in DeForest whose driver’s license had expired shortly before the cutoff date 18 months earlier. Both could have cast provisional ballots and obtained a valid ID by the next Friday, but said they would be unable to do so.

The election was the largest since the 2011 law went into effect after several court challenges.

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Republicans said the law would protect the integrity of the voting process while Democrats said it was an attempt to suppress voting among students, the elderly and low-income people who tend to vote for Democrats.

“The greatest problem noted by observers concerned the limited types of photo ID that are acceptable,” the report states. “It was common that young people and first-time voters did not have acceptable ID and therefore did not cast a vote in the April election.”

In many other cases, the report said, poll workers helped voters with the wrong identification figure out which identification was acceptable or how to cast a provisional ballot provided they later submit the required identification.

Observers found 33 polling sites were understaffed and in some cases voters waited two to three hours to register and vote. There were 15 people who left the lines before casting a ballot.

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