Now the Justice Department is involved. Good!
Have Wisconsin election laws adhered to the Help America Vote Act?
Madison - In an attempt to settle a political battle about how Wisconsin will comply with federal voting regulations, the State Elections Board decided Wednesday to require those registering on election day to provide a driver's license number if they have one.
Those without their driver's licenses or the license numbers with them at the polls may cast a provisional ballot. They then would have to supply the number by the end of the day after the election, the board determined. Voters who haven't been issued driver's licenses would be able to show either state-issued ID cards or to provide the last four digits of their Social Security numbers.
Elections Board Executive Director Kevin Kennedy said the compromise would likely settle the dispute. He said the U.S. Department of Justice had proposed it as a way to resolve questions about Wisconsin's compliance with the Help America Vote Act, which requires voters to provide driver's license numbers when registering.
The board had earlier decided to allow people to register at the polls by supplying the last four digits of their Social Security numbers if they didn't have their driver's licenses with them or if they didn't know the numbers.
Republicans said the policy was too lax and could invite a federal lawsuit, but some thought voters' rights could be violated by a too-strict standard.
Those who had been pushing the board to adopt a stricter standard said the Elections Board had taken a positive step Wednesday toward balancing voters' rights with the need for tight election rules, while others still questioned whether the state had done enough to comply with federal law.
"This is a victory for the legal and legitimate voters of this state, and it's one additional small step toward restoring integrity to our election process," said Sen. Joe Leibham (R-Sheboygan).
Wisconsin Republican Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner and Mark Green, who is running against incumbent Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle for governor this fall, had urged the U.S. Department of Justice to review the board's earlier decision.
U.S. Department of Justice officials are willing to sue the state to ensure the federal law holds in the September primary and the November general elections, Kennedy has said.
In a statement, Green said the board's action Wednesday was a move in the right direction but he still had concerns that the rule didn't adhere to the Help America Vote Act.
"This rule remains unclear and in order to facilitate the integrity of elections in Wisconsin, the (Elections Board) should simply comply with HAVA and require a driver's license number without the provisional ballot exception," Green's statement says.
Cynthia Magnuson, spokeswoman for the federal Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, said the department had no comment on the Elections Board's decision.
Some board members who voted Wednesday to adopt the compromise policy said they were reluctant to do so and acknowledged the politics behind the controversy. In the end, they said, they wanted to avoid a lawsuit.
"Some voters' rights in Wisconsin are going to be eroded by this rule, whether that's one person in the fall election or thousands," said board member Carl Holborn of Milwaukee. "They were prodded and pushed by Mark Green to pursue this."
The Elections Board's rule now goes to the Legislature's Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules.
"It sounds like a big step in the right direction, and we'll see what the Justice Department has to say about it," said Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), co-chairman of the committee.