Voters will go to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in a statewide primary for Wisconsin Supreme Court. It pits Sauk County Judge Michael Screnock against Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet and Madison Attorney Tim Burns.
Tuesday’s primaries mark two years since voter ID kicked in, in Wisconsin. Voter ID was established in Wisconsin for good, following a series of bitter court battles. Supporters argued the law prevents voter fraud, while critics feared it would disenfranchise the elderly and minorities, along with others most likely not to have an ID.
The law went into effect for the February 2016 primaries. Under the law, voters must present photo identification at the polls in order to be allowed to vote. Acceptable forms of ID include a Wisconsin driver’s license or a state-issued ID card. Other forms include a U.S. passport, a tribal ID card, a military ID card or a certificate of naturalization. Some student IDs also are accepted – those who don’t have an ID can get a free one from the state.
One organization that’s fielded many calls related to voter ID is the Wisconsin League of Women Voters.
Education Coordinator Eileen Newcomer says there’s been some confusion. “Most of the confusion comes around what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable. So, your Wisconsin driver’s license, that’s good to go. But, if you’ve moved here from Minnesota or Illinois, you can’t use your old driver’s license from out of state,” she says.
Newcomer estimates 90 percent of the voting population at this point has proper ID – but her organization continues to reach out to the remaining ten percent. She says the League has field offices across the state, and staffers have been holding informational events, in an effort to help people obtain an ID. Voters with proper ID can register at the polls today, if they have a valid proof of residence, such as a current utility bill.
Those who do head to the polls, won’t see crowds. That’s according to Milwaukee Election Commissioner Neil Albrecht. He expects a low turnout for today’s election.
“There’s only one contest, at least in the city of Milwaukee for this particular primary and that’s the state Supreme Court race. There’s been a lot of attention to that race and there’s been some great, high profile campaigning. So, there’s good awareness for that election but even so, we expect about an 8 to ten percent voter turnout,” Albrecht says.
Albrecht says that compares to 66 percent turnout in the 2014 gubernatorial election, while 75 percent of eligible voters in Milwaukee cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election. He says spring nonpartisan primary elections typically draw small numbers, compared to partisan fall elections.
Even so, election workers have been taking steps to make sure vote totals are accurate and secure. Reid Magney of the Wisconsin Elections Commission says the election system is virtually impossible to penetrate. He acknowledges Russian hackers targeted Wisconsin in 2016, in particular the Department of Workforce Development, but they couldn’t get in.
“There are two systems we’re talking about. The first is the voter registration system which is protected by the state of Wisconsin’s firewalls, our data center is extremely secure and there’s never been any penetration of that data base. So, all people’s information there is safe,” Magney says.
He says another reason votes are secure is because of Wisconsin’s decentralized counting system. He says each county has a different system and there isn’t one centralized place for hackers to go, in an attempt to change votes.
Magney says voting equipment is never connected to the internet, and the elections commission does lots of testing before and after each election to make sure results are accurate.