Cell Phones Can Prove Residency at the Polls


Under a new rule adopted by The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, voters can now use smartphones and other electronic devices to prove residency at the polls.

The new rule makes official what has been standard practice at some polling stations for several years. It effectively expands the statutory meaning of a document to include screen shots of webpages, as well as hard copy paper documents. This means someone arriving at the polls on Election Day to register can pull up a bank statement or utility bill on a smartphone and simply show it to the poll worker.

Andrea Kaminsky of the Wisconsin League of Women Voters says it is time for voter registration officially join the online world. “If online transactions are acceptable for banking and health care, then online or electronic documents should be acceptable to registering to vote. Requiring a paper copy does not make it more difficult for a dishonest person to fake the documentation. It only makes it more difficult for people to register to vote.”

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Ann Jacobs of the group Wisconsin Election Protection says using screen shots of online documents is especially important for college students registering on Election Day. She says in the 2010 election she watched poll workers use electronic documents at a Marquette University polling place in Milwaukee. “The chief inspector there had his laptop; students were allowed to log in. He read the form and got their document, which in fact was most commonly a bank account or a cell phone record, wrote it down on the proof of residency form and registered the voters.”

The new rule does not require polling stations to provide computers for people to find their online records, but does allow people to bring their own laptops or smartphones to pull up the documents.