Total Recall: Students face confusion over residency requirements
Post by Christie Taylor on 6/5/2012 6:26pm
As turnout continues to gallop toward presidential levels in Wisconsin reports from around the state are that students are having a hard time voting.
Carolyn Castore is coordinating the League of Women Voters collaborative Wisconsin Election Protection initiative, which includes an attorney-manned hotline for questions and reporting problems. As the Capital Times reported earlier in the day, by 2 p.m. the hotline had received more than 100 calls from students saying they were being blocked from voting from their family addresses.
Students can vote at their family addresses today, even if they aren't yet registered, as long as they didn't vote in the dorms for the May 8 primary. Students who did vote in the primary and were registered at their dorm address should have either voted absentee or in person at that polling place.
Castore said calls reflected both confusion among students who either didn't know where to vote, or were incorrectly told they could not vote, and confusion on the part of poll workers who didn't know the rules.
Wisconsin League of Women Voters executive director Andrea Kaminski said that while student registration has always been slightly more problematic, because they are a population that routinely changes address, today's problems are unique because, thanks to the 28-day residency requirement added by the new voter ID law, poll workers and clerks are just as likely to be confused about the rules.
"This is a very unusual election," she said.
Castore said that, as the day has gone on, information has started to trickle out and students are getting more confident in asserting their rights. But since 2 p.m., the hotline has still received about 140 additional calls from concerned students, she said. In several cases she said students' ability to register was challenged by poll observers, including Tea Party group True The Vote.
Furthermore, she said, the problem was happening all over the state, not just in urban centers like Madison and Milwaukee. "It's an equal opportunity disenfranchiser," she said.
ACLU Wisconsin communications director Stacy Harbaugh said the best bet for students who were being challenged at the polls was to call the hotline (1-866-OUR-VOTE) and walk one of the coalition's attorneys through their particular scenario. Having proof of address on hand would help, too. (Proof of address does not have to be 28 days old.)
Early this afternoon turnout in student wards, including absentee ballots already received, was low. The final numbers of absentee ballots cast in student wards will not be available until Friday's canvas, when mailed-in ballots are due.
By 1 p.m., Harbaugh said, Wisconsin Election Protection's hotline had received nearly 600 calls from members of the public with questions about how to vote, though she said besides one man who was mugged on the way to his polling place, there were no other major problems.
For example, in the Village of Deerfield, the Government Accountability Board reports, voters were asked to show ID for registration, and some apparently left thinking it was needed to vote. Later in the afternoon Twitter and Facebook users spread the word that those voters should return. And Harbaugh said that even people without ID can register to vote: they just need their driver's license number or the last four digits of their social security number, plus a separate proof of address.
Harbaugh said, overall, the problems were more about confusion about fine points in new rules created either by the non-enjoined portions of the state Voter ID law, or by other changes made since last year's elections. "Not only is the recall election unprecedented, but we're also dealing with all these recent changes in the law that are mostly untested," she said. "Even the GAB is trying to issue clarifications as they go because these new rules are so untested."
The GAB and news outlets are also reporting several instances of active voter suppression tactics, such as phone calls informing people that if they've signed a recall petition they don't need to vote. The GAB said it had received several reports from voters and the media about the calls.
Wisconsin State Sen. Lena Taylor filed a complaint with GAB director Kevin Kennedy this morning asking the board to open a criminal investigation into those phone calls. GAB spokesperson Reid Magney said that, at least for today, the board is advising voters to be skeptical of information they receive from phone calls, canvassers, and others saying they should not vote.
Disclosure: Stacy Harbaugh is a member of the dane101 Board of Directors.
Christie Taylor (@ctaylsaurus) covers science, environment, and, depending on the season, state politics for dane101. She verbs a lot of nouns, including rollerskates, radio, and Kurt Vonnegut. A Madison native, she's not sure she'll ever quite manage to leave Wisconsin, and that's just fine by her. Contact her at email@example.com.