Voting is easy… If you know what to do

by | Jul 29, 2020 | Blog, Voting

By Charlotte Goska, Co-leader of COVO’s Voter ID Team

I asked my mother-in-law if she wanted help getting an absentee ballot for the August election.

“No, I can’t,” she replied. “I can’t vote.”

Her driver license had recently expired and she had received a letter in the mail listing the numerous documents she would need in order to meet new federal requirements. She was trying to locate all the documents, but with her current health issues, it had been a struggle.

I assured her that she could vote.

I knew she had voted absentee in February, when she was in Florida. Because of this, I knew that her clerk already had a copy of her ID on file. Once you submit your Photo ID to your clerk to vote absentee, subsequent requests don’t need to include a copy of the ID.

For another thing, a Wisconsin driver license or ID is still acceptable for voting even if it’s expired – as long as it expired after the last general election (currently November 6, 2018). Since she doesn’t plan to drive anymore, she can keep her old driver license for now and continue to use it as ID for voting.

The letter from the DMV is also misleading. It suggests that the additional documentation (such as birth certificate, marriage license, and social security card) is mandatory when in fact, it’s not. (On the back, in language not easily understood, the letter explains that you can also choose to just renew your regular driver license.)

Why are people confused?
In 2005 Congress passed the REAL ID act, which established security standards for ID issuance following the 9/11 attack. Starting in October 2021, a REAL ID (with a star in the upper right corner) will be required for entering federal buildings or flying in an airplane. It’s true that additional documentation is needed to obtain a REAL ID, BUT you don’t need a REAL ID to vote! Since my mother-in-law doesn’t plan to travel, I don’t expect her to need a REAL ID anytime soon.

Finally, due to her mobility issues, she hasn’t been leaving the house much. She would qualify as an “indefinitely confined” voter who can request an absentee ballot without showing ID. (An indefinitely confined voter is someone who would have a difficult time getting to the polls due to age, illness, infirmity, or disability.) If her ID wasn’t already on file in this case, we could have used the MyVote website to request a ballot by checking the “indefinitely confined” option.

With a few clicks on the MyVote.WI.Gov website, we requested her absentee ballot and she was relieved of any more worries about gathering documentation and heading to the DMV during a pandemic.

Once the current public health conditions improve, if she wants to get another ID, I’ll take her to the DMV to get a free State ID for voting. People over 65 can get a non-expiring ID, which is what I’ll recommend for her.

Charlotte Goska is co-leader of the Coalition of Voting Organizations of Brown County, WI (COVO), an all-volunteer, nonpartisan group. If you have a question about voter registration, Photo ID, or absentee voting, visit their website or contact COVO directly. |
(920) 445-8671

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