It's not the law - yet - but Columbia County voters shouldn't be surprised if, when they come to their polling place for the April 5 non-partisan election, a poll worker asks to see a photo ID.
County Clerk Sue Moll told the Columbia County Board's executive committee Monday that it's possible, though not definite, that voters will be asked to present a driver's license or other approved identification with a photo on it, to help prepare people working at the polls for the likely future Legislative approval of a bill to require photo ID to vote or request an absentee ballot.
That law is almost certain not to be in effect April 5, partly because the state Senate can't take it up without a quorum, and 14 Democratic senators are still out of state.
And, Moll said, no one who's currently registered to vote would be denied a ballot April 5 if they don't produce ID.
That would change for later elections if the bill, as proposed, becomes law, she said.
The Senate recently completed the amendment process for the bill, but because it has a fiscal impact, the Senate cannot act on it until it has a quorum.
Under the bill, as amended, acceptable IDs for voters would include a Wisconsin driver's license, a state identification card issued by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, military ID, a passport and tribal identification - but not student ID.
Asking for ID at the polls April 5 would be a rehearsal of sorts for when the law is enacted, to help poll workers know what information to look for to ensure that identification is valid, Moll said.
If the voter ID bill becomes law, she said, clerks might also set up simulated polling places to train poll workers on identification procedures.
Committee member Debra Wopat said that, when she was in Madison in January to lobby with legislators on county-related issues, she advocated that any lawmakers considering approval of a voter ID law should contact the county and municipal clerks who would be charged with implementing the law.
Moll said she and her fellow clerks have, indeed, offered their input on the measure.
If and when voter ID becomes law, she said, expect some changes at polling places.
For example, even a voter who has been registered to vote at the same address for many years would have to show approved ID to cast a ballot - and failure to do so would result in the ballot being held until the voter can produce the identification to the clerk in charge of that polling place. This is similar to what happens now when a voter registers at the polls and does not present the required identification (usually a Wisconsin driver's license); the ballot is held as "provisional" until the ID information is presented to the clerk, no later than 4 p.m. the day after the election. Then, at the canvass, the provisional ballot would be counted.