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Democrats Call For Statewide Voter ID Education Campaign

Proponents Of Campaign Cite Voter Challenges During Spring Election

Bridgit Bowden/WPR

Some Wisconsin Democrats are calling for the GOP-controlled state Legislature to fund a statewide campaign to educate voters about Wisconsin’s newly enacted voter ID law.

State Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, was joined at a Capitol news conference on Thursday by the Wisconsin League of Women Voters and poll workers from across the state, who shared challenges some voters faced during the presidential primary earlier this month.

The primary was the first real test of the law, which went into effect earlier this year after a series of legal challenges. Though Republicans have said high turnout proves the voter ID law is working just fine, opponents to the law point to long lines at polling places and obstacles some voters faced while trying to cast a ballot.

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“This is supposed to be a democracy, and we were acting more like some of the countries that really prevent people from voting,” said Karen Matteoni, who worked a polling place heavy with college students in Madison.

Matteoni said many students she worked with tried to present out-of-state drivers licenses as a valid photo ID. Non-Wisconsin licenses don’t meet the new state requirement.

Taylor called on the state’s Joint Committee on Finance to use uncommitted state funds to pay for the education campaign. She pointed to a memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, which identified $267,200 in unclaimed general revenue funds that could be allocated to the cause.

The state elections board would have to request the funding first, then the finance committee could approve the allocation.

“Regardless of what your position is on voter ID, we should all agree that we need a comprehensive voter education campaign on these new requirements,” Taylor said. “The least we can do is educate people.”

Taylor said she’d like most of the unclaimed funds to be used for the campaign.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Joint Committee on Finance Chair Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, didn’t immediately return requests for comment on Taylor’s proposal.