Julie Geissler was nowhere near the Department of Motor Vehicles on election day April 5, but the agency was brought up repeatedly by prospective voters in the town of Tilden.
Geissler, the town clerk, said three would-be voters went to the DMV to update their driver’s licenses so they would have a valid photo ID they could show to vote. She said the prospective voters had moved and their addresses were incorrect.
The DMV changed the records but didn’t reissue driver’s licenses with the correct addresses.
“We can’t register them to vote,” Geissler said.
She said she talked with the state Government Accountability Board at 7 p.m. election night. She pointed out voters were trying to do the right thing, but DMV didn’t deliver.
“The GAB said to me, ‘Get ahold of your legislators.’ I have a feeling that they are very well aware of the situation,” Geissler said.
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Then there was the man who had moved from New York City to Tilden, but hadn’t updated his voting information. That was accomplished, but the man didn’t have a valid photo ID that could be accepted by poll workers.
“He did have a passport, but that was back in New York,” Geissler said.
Not every town had problems on election day.
“People seemed to be very accommodating,” Lafayette Town Clerk Sandra Harvey said about voters showing valid photo IDs.
She said the need to show a photo ID has been on the news, and the town placed a sign with that information on the front door of the town hall so voters were aware.
“We didn’t really have any problems,” said Kris Fitzsimmons, clerk of the village of Lake Hallie. “Our biggest issue was voter turnout was higher than expected.”
Clerk Bridget Givens said the photo ID law didn’t cause a problem in Chippewa Falls, but she had to turn away voters because they lacked proof of residence.
What you can show to prove your residence is very specific under Wisconsin law.
“We can’t take a auto insurance bill. Can’t take a credit card statement,” Givens said. But if someone can show their utility statement on their phone, that’s acceptable. However, it must be a utility bill that starts no more than 90 days before registration is made.
What is taken are: a bank statement; a paycheck; a check or a document issued by a government; an employee ID card with a photo, but it can not be a business card; a real property tax bill or receipt for this year or the year before the election; and, for homeless voters, a letter from an organization that gives services to the homeless.
There are other ways to show residence, but they can be complex. The GAB said one is a picture ID from a university, college or technical school plus a fee receipt; or the same picture ID coupled with an on-campus listing given by the school to the municipality that shows U.S. citizenship.
A residential lease also counts, but not if the prospective voters submits it by mail.
Geissler reported on election day an hour was spent helping one newly married woman whose utility bills and bank statements go under her husband’s name.
“We wanted to register (her). We needed documentation that she lives at that address,” Geissler said.
Some voters were creative. “We registered five people (on April 5) using their fishing licenses,” she said. All had receipts from their licenses, so their registrations to vote were allowed.
However, Geissler said new fishing licenses issued in a credit card form will have the name of the angler but not their address, meaning they will not be acceptable to be used to register to vote.
Geissler said 47 people registered to vote on April 5 in Tilden. They were among 650 people to vote. Tilden voters got one of three ballots, because the town is divided among the Bloomer and Chippewa Falls school districts and Districts 7 and 13 for the Chippewa County Board.
She said she’s always found it odd that voters generally skip elections involving the town board, which makes decisions that affect residents’ everyday lives. But those same residents want to vote in a presidential election, which is actually decided by the Electoral College.
She said according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1,200 people in Tilden are eligible to vote.
Geissler doesn’t expect the Tuesday, Aug. 9 primary will be as big as a draw as April 5, but does expect an even larger turnout for the Tuesday, Nov. 8 presidential election.
She expects more than 700 people will vote Nov. 8. She hopes voters will do their homework before they get to the polls and that the state will help to explain what’s needed to vote.
“I am concerned when people do what everyone thought they were supposed to do,” and still can not be registered to vote, Geissler said.