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State won’t seek stay on voting order

By Todd Richmond
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — State attorneys won’t appeal a federal judge’s order to produce documents that clearly explain Wisconsin’s alternative voting credential system.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson on Thursday ordered the state to produce a one-page explanation of the process as well as a document applicants can take away explaining what happens and distribute the documents to media and voting groups by Monday. Peterson also ordered state attorneys and lawyers for liberal group One Wisconsin Institute to develop a public information campaign on the process by next week.

State Justice Department spokesman Johnny Koremenos said Thursday the agency won’t seek a stay of Peterson’s order and won’t appeal it.

Judge, attorneys start work on voting credential outreach

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A federal judge, state attorneys and lawyers for a liberal advocacy group are starting to hammer out how to improve the state’s system for getting voting credentials in the hands of people who lack photo identification.

State law requires voters to show photo ID at the polls. People who lack supporting documents can apply for alternative credentials at Division of Motor Vehicle offices. Anyone who applies is supposed to get the credentials in the mail within days. But media reports show DMV workers have received little training on the credentials and have been giving applicants inaccurate information.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson, state Justice Department attorneys and One Wisconsin Institute began meeting Thursday to hammer out how to get more information out about the process.

People who have certain documents such as birth certificates or Social Security cards can obtain a free ID card from the state, and those who lack them can receive a receipt allowing them to cast a ballot. The receipts are supposed to arrive by mail within six days, but some DMV workers have erroneously told prospective voters they need birth certificates or similar documents to get the receipt and that their paperwork could take six to eight weeks to process.

Peterson said the state didn’t start putting more resources into training until after the challenge was filed.

“There’s a disturbing pattern here and that is the state responds to litigation but doesn’t actually anticipate problems even when the problems were really predictable,” Peterson said. “The state is willing to take minimal efforts unless compelled by litigation.”

Republicans passed a law in 2011 requiring Wisconsin voters to provide government-approved photo identification at the polls. The GOP said the mandate would reduce fraud, even though no evidence of widespread voter impersonation exists.

Peterson ruled in July that the credentialing process was a “wretched failure” because it still left many citizens unable to obtain IDs. He ordered the state to quickly issue credentials that would be could be used for voting without putting an undue burden on anyone who applied for them.

The hearing on the voter ID law came as a state elections official reiterated that absentee ballots lacking a witness’ name and address wouldn’t be counted. The requirement is part of a new state law, which could lead to thousands of votes being tossed.

“The staff continues to believe the current guidance on the issue strikes the appropriate balance,” Elections Commission administrator Mike Haas said in a memo Wednesday.

A more strict reading of the law, requiring additional information such as a zip code, state and apartment number, is defensible but “seemed overly harsh in practice,” Haas said.

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