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Local Election Officials Take a Wait and See Approach to New Voting Rules


Milwaukee City Hall was buzzing on Monday with early voters. They were casting ballots in advance of the August 9 primary.

We asked several people in the Election Commissioner’s office what they think of two recent federal court rulings that loosen parts of Wisconsin’s Voter ID law. They’re not scheduled to take effect until November, but early voters are aware.

Kai Smith just finished casting her ballot for the August 9th primary. Smith is glad that federal Judge Lynn Adelman told Wisconsin a few weeks ago, that it must accommodate voters who cannot get a photo ID by the November election. His order puts a wrinkle in the law state Republican leaders passed.

“I don’t agree with it because I think everybody is entitled to vote. You don’t need any I-D to vote, you live here, you can vote,” Smith says.

Smith says she’s looking forward to other changes that U.S. District Judge James Peterson mandated late Friday. For instance, he told the state to scrap the restrictions it has imposed on early voting. The law limits early voting to weekdays during the two weeks prior to an election. Beforehand, the City of Milwaukee offered weekend hours. Patrick Schley says they’re much more convenient for him.

“I had to take time off work to come down here today to vote early. Usually I vote on Election Day but I’ll be out of town so, I have to figure out when I’m going to do it,” Schley says.

“We see early voting as a much needed opportunity for a lot of people in Milwaukee. People who aren’t able to access early voting, then sometimes lose their right to vote in an election," says City Election Commissioner Neil Albrecht.

He says, from his perspective, the court rulings leave his job in limbo – for right now, because state Attorney General Brad Schimel plans to appeal the federal court’s ruling. So Albrecht can’t yet make plans for the November election or to start to train poll workers.

“We need to wait at least for another couple of weeks to really see what happens in the judicial process with both of these rulings before we can really tell the public what to expect for November,” Albrecht says.

Albrecht says if the judge’s ruling stands, Milwaukee will likely resume offering early voting on weekends. He says the city may also expand early voting to multiple locations – not just downtown. The judge decided there can be more than a single early polling place.

One person who expects tons of questions about the court decisions and their impact on voting is Andrea Kaminski. She says some people are already confused as to whether they will need a photo ID in November.

“We’re recommending that people err on the safe side. You should at least try to get an ID, you should do that. Try to at least get a state ID from the DMV, be ready to show it at the polls and be ready for changes,” Kaminski says.

Kaminski is executive director of the Wisconsin League of Women Voters. She says it will keep people informed of developments on its website. Members also will be available to answer questions at several National Night Out celebrations this week.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.