Jan. 11, 2020
If you try to register to vote in Milwaukee without providing proof of residence, the city sends you a rejection letter – and instructions to use that rejection letter as proof of residence going forward.
“Your voter registration application has not been processed. We have to return it for a proof of address document,” the letter states. “You may use this letter as your proof of address (official government correspondence).”
The voter registration form and proof of residence are the only two documents individuals must provide to register to vote. Almost any official document containing the individual’s name and address can be used. That includes bank statements, utility bills, government issued IDs, or any document issued by a government agency.
“It’s an official government document,” explained Claire Woodall-Vogg, executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission. “We’re confident we’re complying with the law.”
She explained she came up with the idea of including the instructions in 2014, and the city has been doing it ever since. She said Madison does the same thing.
Woodall-Vogg told MacIver News that 6,000 people received that letter in 2020 alone, but she didn’t know how many turned around and used the letter as proof of residence.
“I don’t think we have a lot of people using it because it is so counterintuitive.”
Woodall-Vogg said there are two main sources for registration application without proof of residence. One is people filling out the post office’s change of address form, but not following through. The other is voter registration drives that provide pre-filled registration forms to people, who don’t bother reading the instructions to include proof of residence.
Those who register using the rejection letter still must present a photo ID to actually vote… unless they’re indefinitely confined, of course.