By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld Wisconsin’s voter identification law on September 12 and ruled that the state “may, if it wishes … enforce the photo ID requirement in this November’s elections.”
According to information from Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board (formerly the State Elections Board), one of the most frequently asked questions about voter ID pertains to names not matching up perfectly with the poll book and a Wisconsin driver’s license or a state-issued ID card.
If you have voted in an election recently, you know that you have to sign the poll book before receiving your ballot.
And, if by some chance, you are like me — the name in the poll book and the name on your driver’s license do not match.
Reid Magney, a spokesperson for the GAB, responded to an e-mail from this newspaper by telephone.
Magney said Wisconsin law does not require the name in the poll book and the name on the driver’s license or photo ID to match up perfectly — the name must only “match substantially.”
What that means, Magney said, is that the poll book or a driver’s license or photo ID could have a middle initial in one place and the middle name spelled out in another, and that would be an acceptable because the name “matches substantially.”
Other substantial matches would include nicknames and proper names: Robert/Bob; Cindy/Cynthia; Bill/William; Kathy/Kathleen.
In addition, Magney said, the address on the driver’s license or the photo ID does not have to match the voter’s current address.
The Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles renews driver’s licenses or photo identification cards once every eight years. When a person moves, he or she is supposed to notify the DMV, but the DMV does not issue a new card until it is time to be renewed, Magney said.
Getting an ID
According to information on the GAB’s website, any Wisconsin resident who does not hold a valid driver’s license can apply for an ID card.
If you have a valid driver’s license, even if the license is revoked, you are not eligible for an ID card, and you can use the revoked valid driver’s license as voter ID.
You also are not eligible for an ID card unless you will be 18 on the next election or if you are not eligible to vote in Wisconsin (for example, if you are not a resident, or if you are a convicted felon whose voting rights have not been restored).
If you are applying for an original ID card, you are required to visit a Department of Motor Vehicles office and complete an application form and provide proof of name and date of birth (a certified U.S. birth certificate, valid passport or certification of naturalization).
You must also provide proof of your identity (a document with a signature); proof of Wisconsin residency; proof of U.S. citizenship, legal permanent resident status, legal conditional resident status or legal temporary visitor status (a birth certificate issued by a state can be used as proof of citizenship); and your social security number.
If you have held a Wisconsin driver’s license at some point in the past eight years but no longer have the license, you would only be required to provide proof of identity when applying for the ID card.
All ID cards are mailed, but a receipt including your photo will be given to you at the DMV, and the receipt is an acceptable photo ID for voting until your ID card arrives in the mail.
If you want a free ID card from the DMV, you must be sure to check the “FREE” box when completing the MV3004 Wisconsin ID application form.
A DMV official has instructed DMV employees not to tell people that they can receive a free ID — but rather, people must ask for the free ID and must do so by checking the box on the application form.
No birth certificate
If you are applying for an ID card but your documents are not available to prove U.S. citizenship, name and date of birth, and/or a legal name change, you can still get an ID.
You must be a U.S. citizen, you must indicate that you need the free ID card for voting and you must claim that the documents are not available and that you must pay a fee to a government agency to get one.
Then you must apply at a DMV office, fill out the application, complete a document verification process, and present documents to prove your identity and your Wisconsin residency.
The information included on the document verification form is used to contact state and federal agencies to verify unavailable documentation.
After verification has been received, the DMV will process your ID card and will mail it to you.
If verification is not received, the DMV will contact you to let you know what additional information may be needed for an alternate method of verification.
According to the GAB’s website, in addition to a valid Wisconsin DOT issued driver’s license (even if driving privileges are revoked or suspended) and a Wisconsin ID card, here are other valid forms of ID that you can use for voting:
• A military ID card issued by a branch of the U.S. military service (with an expiration date after November 2, 2010).
• A United States passport (with an expiration date after November 2, 2010).
• A certificate of naturalization issued no earlier than two years prior to the election.
• An unexpired Wisconsin DOT driving receipt.
• An identification card issued by a federally-recognized Indian tribe in Wisconsin.
• An unexpired identification card issued by a Wisconsin-accredited university or college that contains the date of issuance, the signature of the student, and an expiration date that is no more than two years after the date when the card was issued. The student must also provide proof of enrollment at the polls.
According to an Associated Press news story on September 18, University of Wisconsin campuses will issue free identification cards for voting to students who make the request.
Regular UW system student ID cards will not work for voter identification requirements because they do not contain a signature and an expiration date.
Only ID cards issued by UW-Superior meet the criteria, according to the AP article.
Students with a valid Wisconsin driver’s license, a Wisconsin ID card, a United States passport or a military ID card do not need to apply for an ID from their campus because one of the other forms of identification are acceptable.
Students who have the new university-issued ID cards must still provide proof of enrollment when they go to vote.