|Seniors scrambling to get voter IDs|
|Written by Dennis Hines/Stateline News|
|Wednesday, 25 January 2012 16:40|
Jim Davis of La Grange Township gives rides to seniors who need to get to the Division of Motor Vehicles office to obtain a state ID card. Starting with the February primary, voters must show identification at the polls. Davis worries that some people who don’t have a driver’s license might not realize what’s involved in getting proper identification. Terry Mayer/staff photo.
ELKHORN — With a primary election just a month away, some senior citizens are scrambling to comply with new voter ID legislation enacted in June.
(Read all of this week's stories in the e-edition HERE)
The law requires voters to show one of several approved forms of identification before voting. The most common form of ID is a Wisconsin driver’s license, but many seniors no longer drive and therefore no longer have a driver’s license.
The Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles will provide a free, approved state identification card, but getting to the DMV to apply can sometimes be a challenge.
Groups ranging from senior centers to the county clerks office have been working to educate seniors about the new voting rules, and how to comply.
In addition to a Wisconsin driver’s license or state-issued ID, acceptable forms of identification include a military ID card, U.S. passport, certificate of naturalization, a photo ID issued by a federally recognized Wisconsin Indian tribe or photo ID issued by an accredited college or university.
In Elkhorn, the Volunteer Connection is stepping in to help with the transportation problem. Volunteers with the group are offering rides to DMV offices in Walworth County, so residents can obtain a voter ID card.
“We have volunteers who take them to the DMV so they can get their photo ID,” said Patti O’Brien of Volunteer Connection. “We make sure they have all their documents before we take them.
“I felt it was something that was needed, so I coordinated some volunteers who were willing to offer the service ...” O’Brien said. “If we have a group in Walworth County that needs a ride to the DMV, we will send a volunteer to take the whole group.”
Jim Davis of La Grange Township is one of the volunteers who is offering rides. Despite being opposed to the law, Davis said he decided to participate in the program to give residents who do not have a photo ID an opportunity to vote.
“I recognize the need,” Davis said. “It’s very concerning. I think (the law) is very unjust. I hate to see people being denied the right to vote.”
So far, Davis said he only has given about 10 rides.
“Unfortunately, I haven’t given a lot of rides,” Davis said. “I’ve only gotten a few. I think a lot of people haven’t grasped the situation yet ... There’s other volunteers who haven’t had any riders. We don’t turn people away. We just haven’t received many calls.”
For more information about the program, call (262) 472-9632.
Walworth County Clerk Kimberly Bushey said there are websites such as www.Bringit.wisconsin.gov that include information about the new voter ID law.
“There’s all kinds of information set up to make sure people bring the right ID,” Bushey said. “If people have any questions, it’s a good resource.”
Over in Rock County, Beloit City Clerk Rebecca Houseman is answering plenty of questions.
“We’ve gotten a lot of calls from people who have elderly parents and from elderly individuals asking if they need an ID,” Houseman said.
The city of Beloit placed brochures, which include information about the law, in residents’ property tax bills, she said.
“So everyone who owns property in Beloit has gotten a copy of the brochure,” Houseman said.
The Beloit Senior Center also is working to educate voters. John Kalkirtz, executive director, said representatives from the Beloit city clerk’s office and the Rock County clerk’s office have dropped off pamphlets about the new law.
“We do have information as seniors walk in,” Kalkirtz said. “The information is on a large board, and people have been taking information home already. We’ve received a good response.”
Seniors should feel free to ask questions, Kalkirtz said.
“We’re trying to give people information, so they can better understand (the law),” Kalkirtz said. “If people have any questions, I would be happy to sit down and talk to them and answer any questions they may have.”
The Beloit Senior Center, located at 631 Bluff St., is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Feelings about the voter ID law were mixed among a group of seniors who gathered Wednesday at the center.
Bob Hopper, 87, of Beloit has no problem with the new requirements.
“Anything we can do to keep the voting honest, I think it is very important,” Hopper said. “Some people will say, ‘Well, there’s not much (voter fraud).’ You look back at some of the years, look how many votes there were in Milwaukee from dead people and all that stuff.”
Terri DeFauw, 64, of Beloit, on the other hand, sees the law as unnecessary.
“I think it’s a little ridiculous,” DeFauw said. “My husband and I have voted in every election, and they know us at the polls. So now the poor people who work at the polls have to take the time to check out your ID.
“There’s some people who don’t have photo IDs, and that may discourage them from voting, which I think may be a terrible thing. So, all in all, I’m against it.”
Karen Nelson of Beloit, a volunteer poll worker, said she also is concerned that the new law will create longer lines at the polling places. Still, she sees some merit in the concept.
“I think it will be holding up the process a little bit more, but I see why they want to do it,” Nelson said. “I think it is good for the state to have it put in place that they need to show their identification, to get it right.”
Nelson said she and other local poll workers attended a meeting regarding the new law at Beloit City Hall several months ago.
“I don’t think a lot of people know about it yet,” Nelson said. “Hopefully, there will be information everywhere like there is (at Beloit Senior Center) and in other places. Hopefully, there’s information out there for everyone.”
In Janesville, city Deputy Clerk/Treasurer David Godek said he has received some questions about the law, but he has not heard too many concerns among residents.
City officials plan to host public education meetings regarding the law in the near future, Godek said.
Rock County Clerk Lori Stottler said the League of Women Voters groups in Beloit and Janesville have distributed brochures, which include information about the law and how to obtain a photo ID.
“They have been hitting the streets and spreading the word,” Stottler said. “There’s plenty of organizations that are stepping up to make sure people are going to be able to get out and vote.”
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 January 2012 16:44|