Know Your Rights
Voting in Wisconsin
November 1, 2017
There has seldom been a U.S. Presidential election where so much seems at stake. Don’t let Wisconsin’s Voter ID law scare you into giving up the one vote (voice) you have in what will happen to all of us over the next four years. Wisconsin ACLU‘s Senior Staff Attorney Karyn L. Rotker joined FORGE on September 24, 2016 to help people figure out how to navigate any identification or registration concerns. If you weren’t able to join us, here are the highlights you need to know:
- Are you registered to vote at your current address? If the answer is no or if you’re not sure, go to https://myvote.wi.gov/en-US/RegisterToVote. That’s where you can get a mail-in registration form, which you can mail to (or drop off at) your MUNICIPAL clerk’s office. You can also change the name and/or address on your existing registration here. If you need to register (or change your name/address), you must provide a document with your full (first and last) name and current address. There’s a long list of documents that count – for that, and other registration information, take a look here: http://www.aclu-wi.org/story/answers-some-voter-registration-questions
- If you’re homeless and don’t have these proof of residence documents, be aware that any public or private agency that provides services to homeless persons (it does NOT have to be a place where you sleep or a shelter) can complete a proof of residence form for you – there’s info below under resources. Ask if an agency that helps you is willing to complete that form.
- If you’re mailing your registration form to the clerk, it must be postmarked by October 19, 2016. (You can register the day you show up to early vote or on election day, as well.) A good place for more info is to just Google “Wisconsin voter registration.”
- You will need one of a specific list of forms of photo identification to vote. The list is right here at #2, as well as more good information on how the photo ID law works: http://aclu-wi.org/story/top-10-voter-id-questions
- Your photo ID does NOT have to have your current address to be valid for voting!
- If you go to vote in person (either early or on election day), the poll workers are supposed to just check if the photo on the ID “reasonably resembles” the person showing the ID (driver’s licenses are good for 8 years, for instance, and many of us change quite a bit within that time frame). Elections officials have said that “Even if you’ve colored your hair, shaved your beard or lost some weight, as long as your photo ID reasonably resembles you, it should be accepted.” They also say, however, “Of course, there are certain requirements. Your ID should look like you, even if you’ve colored your hair, shaved your beard or lost some weight.”
- The name on your photo ID does NOT have to be the exact name you use to vote – but it can’t be completely different. Nicknames, for example, are OK. If you’ve changed your name, you should change it on both your ID and your voter registration.
- If your ID doesn’t match your current appearance, consider mail-in absentee voting.
- To do mail in voting, you have to send a copy of your photo ID (from the list at #2 here – http://aclu-wi.org/story/top-10-voter-id-questions) along with your application for an absentee ballot, which is here – http://www.gab.wi.gov/elections-voting/voters/absentee. (You send the copy of the ID and the absentee ballot application to your municipal clerk or, if you live in the city of Milwaukee, to the Milwaukee Elections Commission).
- Although you must mail a copy of the photo ID, there will be no way to check that ID against your current appearance.
- The municipal clerk will mail you your absentee ballot.
- Note that when you fill out your absentee ballots, they require careful attention to directions (you’ll need a witness, for example, who must put their name and address on the envelope). And the ballot must be mailed back in time so the clerk RECEIVES it by Election Day, November 8, 2016. (You can also Google “Wisconsin absentee ballot” for an easier-to-read set of instructions.)
- Another way to lessen your chances of being hassled if you want to vote in person is to do early voting at your city hall or other designated place. Particularly if you live in the city of Milwaukee, these full-time professionals may be more aware of transgender voters and less discriminatory about those voters who may have ID that doesn’t match their current appearance – and if there is a problem, you have more time to try to fix it. Google “Wisconsin early voting” for an easy-to-read set of instructions and links. Early voting ends November 4-6, 2016, depending on office openings (in other words, you can NOT vote the day before the election on November 8, 2016). It’s already open in the cities of Milwaukee and Madison, and other communities.
Hassles at the polls.
- If you vote in person on November 8, 2016 and encounter any problems, you have rights! Here are 5 resources to keep in mind and use if you experience any difficulties:
- There is a “chief inspector” at every poll who is empowered to resolve problems.
- You can call the National Election Protection hotline at 866 OUR VOTE. (866-687-8683)
- Tweet to @epwisco for Wisconsin Election Protection help
- Facebook: Wisconsin Election Protection for Wisconsin Election Protection help
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org for Wisconsin ACLU help (on Election Day itself, it’s better to use the phone/twitter and Facebook accounts for Election Protection).
- Wisconsin ACLU’s Top 10 Voter ID Questions
- Wisconsin ACLU’s Answers to Some Voter Registration Questions
- Enabling Qualified Homeless Individuals to Vote — Sample Proof of Residence Letter (Wisconsin)
- National Center for Transgender Equality’s Voting Rights resources
- NCTE’s Voting While Trans Checklist