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How A Milwaukee Voting Rights Advocate Is Working To Educate Voters

Anita Johnson works with voters experiencing many barriers to voting including lack of technology, mobility issues, or difficulty getting a photo ID.

The election is in full swing in Wisconsin. Thousands of voters have already cast their ballots by mail in the Badger State and early voting begins Tuesday. But there remains some uncertainty among voters as the pandemic alongside new laws and regulations have created confusion. 

>>Key Deadlines For Voter Registration, Voting Absentee And In Person

That’s where voting rights advocates, like Anita Johnson, step in. Johnson is the Wisconsin Coalition Coordinator for Voteriders and she does both education and outreach for Souls to the Polls. Her work is a key component to engaging voters, and it was recently honored this month when she received the Robert H. Fribert Social Justice Award from the Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council.

She says the process of getting a proper ID card or registering to vote can be complicated if you don’t know the laws surrounding them. Johnson works with voters through issues like obtaining the correct paperwork to bring to the DMV or applying for an absentee ballot if you're unable to walk.

“There shouldn’t be all of this complication about photo ID and registering to vote. People really shouldn’t need to be educated about what is expected of them when they go to the polls to vote,” says Johnson.

With COVID-19 reducing the number of door-to-door canvassers and in-person voter registration drives, people who don't have a computer or smartphone at home can struggle to register to vote. Johnson says people without this technology just won’t register without help because the barrier is so high.

That’s why her work includes public outreach. She visits churches, schools, and any other place of gathering that will allow her to educate people on these issues.

“It’s imperative that we get out in the public to say, we can help you to do this, we can show you what to do, we can assist you at the DMV, we can assist you if you need to get an absentee ballot,” says Johnson.

With record numbers of absentee voters and early in-person voting beginning on Oct. 20, she's optimistic that voters will not have to wait in long lines if they choose to vote in person.

She stresses that getting and bringing your valid photo ID is the most important issue this year.

“Make sure you have your photo ID with you when you go to vote,” says Johnson.

Joy Powers is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.