State Republicans took a voter photo ID requirement out of an elections bill last session, but that doesn’t mean the idea is dead.
Rep. Kathy Bernier (R-Lake Hallie), chair of the Assembly Campaign and Elections Committee, said talk about having voters show photo identification at a polling place will start again this fall.
But before her committee begins work on a new bill, Bernier would like to hold public hearings on the idea, including one in the Chippewa Valley.
“That’s my plan. I want to give people around here a chance to weigh in,” she said, noting that the committee is allowed to have one public hearing outside of the Capitol on the bill.
The details of when and where a public hearing can be in either Chippewa or Eau Claire County are still being worked out, according to an aide in Bernier’s office.
Bernier also said she is meeting with county clerks statewide to gauge their opinions on what changes they would like to see for elections.
Voter ID has been a controversial issue in the state. A 2011 bill requiring voters to show photo ID had been blocked by two different court injunctions in 2012, with other cases filed against it. One appellate court overturned one of the injunctions on the bill, but the second injunction is still in effect.
Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale) sought to revive it through AB 225, an omnibus campaign and election reform bill, but Republicans and Democrats agreed to pull it out. In its latest form, AB 225 would increase campaign contribution limits and make it easier to register to vote.
“We left the portions that could be supported in a bipartisan fashion,” Bernier said. “It started out as a good idea (to include multiple issues), but it became obvious it was just too much for one bill.”
She added that with her background as Chippewa County clerk, she didn’t want to impose a lot of election changes and new training at the same time for local clerks.
Bernier acknowledged it has been a hot topic, with differing legal opinions on the constitutionality of requiring a photo ID.
“It’s one of those topics that can be argued either way,” she said.
For the upcoming work on a new bill, Bernier said she and Stone are in agreement on having an affidavit available for voters to sign at the polls for anyone who can’t obtain a photo ID.
“It’s very rare, but it will be a fallback procedure,” she said, noting that it will be discrete and not embarrassing for people who can’t afford an ID card.