GAB Directive Could Undermine Voter ID Protections

MacIver News Service | EXCLUSIVE | August 8, 2011

[Madison, Wisc…] A change in voter registration procedures quietly implemented by the Government Accountability Board last month threatens the integrity of Tuesday’s recall elections, State Representative Jeff Stone warns.

Previously, when Wisconsin voters registered at the polls either needed a qualified elector from the same ward vouch for them or they had to provide written proof they lived at their voting address for at least ten days.  This often was in the form of a utility bill, lease or other official document.

The recently-passed voter photo ID law eliminated the vouching provision and changed the residency requirement from 10 days to 28 days.

For the last several weeks, the GAB has been posting updates on its website regarding how it is implementing the new law.  On July 14, it announced voters no longer need proof of residency when registering at the polls. Instead, according to the GAB, voters now only need to sign a sworn statement they are eligible.

“The purpose of the proof of residency document is to establish the voter’s current address, not to prove that the voter complies with the 28 consecutive day residency requirement,” the GAB memo to election workers states. “The voter’s sworn statement on the registration form that they meet the 28-day requirement shall be presumed to be true unless the inspector or a challenger has first-hand knowledge sufficient to question the certification.”

The new directive troubles Representative Stone.

“Nothing in our legislation directed them to do that,” Stone told the MacIver News Service. “Everything in that legislation was intended for people to provide some kind of documentation to prove they can legally vote and this goes in the opposite direction.”

Stone sits on the Assembly’s Committee on Election and Campaign Reform and had been the legislature’s leading proponent of the Voter ID bill.

“You have people who can come in and vote illegally instead of protecting the integrity of the vote, which is what this is all about,” Stone said.

Stone plans on meeting with the Government Accountability Board about the matter.  He does not believe the GAB has the authority to make such a substantial change in Election Day procedure without legislative approval.

“What it comes down to is they’re issuing a direction a few days before the election and there’s not time for the committee or legislature to question these changes before the election occurs,” Stone said.