JUNEAU - "Ninety-nine percent of people will need a photo ID to vote this year," elections specialist David Buerger told Dodge County Democratic Party members Wednesday night.
That likely was not news to the roughly 20 active Democrats assembled at the Dodge County Administration Building to hear Buerger, who works for the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, discuss fine points of the state's new, voter photo identification law.
What may have been news, however, was Buerger's briefing on the 1 percent of voters who will not need a picture ID to cast a ballot. For every rule, it seems, there is an exception or two.
Buerger said the GAB is a non-partisan, state organization that oversees the administration of state law and based upon state legislation passed last year, an acceptable photo ID now is required in order for its holder to vote.
However, Buerger said for more than a decade, the state has maintained a list of "a few hundred" qualified voters who, for reasons of personal safety, seek a voter ID that carries neither their photo nor their address.
Thus protected, he said, a voter may visit the polls or vote by absentee ballot, without fear his or her address or identity will fall into the hands of a prior assailant via open-records searches or some other means.
Buerger could not name a religion that prohibits its adherents from being photographed, but, because Wisconsin's voter ID law incorporated terms from similar statutes in other states, he said the religious exception was retained.
To achieve a photo-free voter ID on the basis of religious belief, an applicant must approach the Wisconsin Department of Transportation according to a written guide Buerger distributed Wednesday.
He said the applicant must prove to the DOT's satisfaction that, "a sincerely held, religious objection" prohibits them from being photographed.
"Confidential voters," Buerger said, must show proof to their municipal clerk that they are victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking prior to being registered on the state's confidential-voter list.
By law, an eligible, confidential voter must provide his or her clerk a copy of one of the following:
• A court-issued restraining order or injunction that is in effect;
• An affidavit from a sheriff, chief of police or district attorney dated within 30 days of their request for confidential-voter status;
• A signed statement from the operator or authorized agent of a shelter dated within 30 days of the applicant's request to the clerk that indicates the applicant resides at the shelter, or
• A statement that includes the applicant's full name, signed by an authorized representative of a domestic-abuse or sexual-assault victim-service provider, indicating the applicant received services from that provider within 24 months prior to the date of the statement.
If an applicant qualifies, Buerger said the municipal clerk shall issue a Confidential Voter Identification Card which bears no photo or address, only a voter serial number.
The voter then may use the identification card without stating his or her name and address and without presenting proof of identification.
Buerger said a new requirement for all Wisconsin voters this year demands they sign a poll list before they are issued a ballot.
To protect anonymity, Buerger said confidential voters must sign a special section of the poll book that is exempt from public records requests.
"Voting may not be a priority for many people with restraining orders, but confidentiality is a priority," Buerger said.
However, he said confidentiality is a priority for other voters, none of whom qualify for special identification cards.
"This law was not created to protect celebrities," he said, noting elected officials also occasionally seek confidential-voter status to keep their home addresses out of public view, but they too, do not qualify.