Stacie B. Burgess
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
202) 445-6101 (cell)
Voters Face Challenges at the Polls During April 5 Wisconsin Presidential Primary and St. Louis Municipal Elections
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 5, 2016 – The nationwide nonpartisan Election Protection voter hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE, received over 300 calls from Wisconsin during the April 5presidential preference primary, as of 9 p.m. EDT. The hotline received calls throughout the day from Wisconsin voters encountering problems in the first major election in which the state’s strict voter ID requirement is now in place. Voters in St. Louis County, Missouri also encountered problems as they went to the polls in the local, municipal election, as many polling places did not have adequate numbers of ballots, as late as 8 a.m. local time this morning.
“Voters from across Wisconsin sought to participate in our democracy despite one of the most stringent photo ID laws in the nation,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Despite their efforts, we encountered voters who wanted to participate and were not able to meet the strict parameters of the state’s photo ID law. Through Election Protection, we seek to educate and empower voters. However, it is clear that Wisconsin’s photo ID requirement simply makes access to the ballot box more difficult."
A legally blind voter called Election Protection after unsuccessfully seeking to get qualifying ID at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The voter had proper documentation, but ultimately had to vote by provisional ballot despite voting in Wisconsin for over 40 years without incident. This voter had no problem voting until the state’s new strict voter ID law was implemented.
One voter who is disabled called Election Protection because she recently moved to Wisconsin and did not realize until today that she needed Wisconsin ID in order to vote. She was unable to vote today.
“This voter’s story shows us the problem with Wisconsin and other voter ID laws,” said Chris Melody Fields, co-leader of Election Protection. “She has an out-of-state ID card, but that is not sufficient to vote today. Because she does not have documentation needed to obtain a Wisconsin driver’s license or to obtain a state ID card by the end of the week in order to have a provisional ballot counted, she did not vote today.”
College students encountered various issues, from difficulties accessing documentation regarding their residency to waiting in long lines. Students at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire encountered challenges in acquiring proof of residency from the college, which is required of individuals who registered to vote at their polling place today. Lines of over an hour long were reported at several universities, including Marquette University in Milwaukee, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Near the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, the line for individuals who needed to register and vote today was approximately 100 people deep at one point during the day.
While the spotlight was on Wisconsin, Missouri also voted in municipal elections today. Voters across St. Louis County arrived at polling sites that did not have sufficient ballots for today’s municipal election. One voter in St. Louis County called to report that when she went to her assigned polling place at 8 a.m. local time, two hours after polls opened, she was told that the polling place did not have her ballot style available and instructed to return later. Because of work obligations, the voter had planned to vote in the morning before work, as many voters do. Election Protection contacted the St. Louis County Election Board about this issue, and an official acknowledged the Board’s errors and informed Election Protection that they were seeking a court order to extend poll hours through 9 p.m. local time this evening. While a judge denied their request, the Missouri Court of Appeals ultimately ordered polls at 63 precincts in St. Louis County to stay open until 9:00 p.m. CDT.
“We applaud the Missouri Court of Appeals for ordering relief that will benefit hundreds of voters impacted by ballot shortages across St. Louis,” Clarke said. “Every vote matters, and no voter should be denied the right to vote because of errors on the part of local election officials.”
About Election Protection
Election Protection is the nation's largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, led by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Through its suite of hotlines, including the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline (866-687-8683) administered by the Lawyers’ Committee, 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682) administered by NALEO Educational Fund, 888-API-VOTE (888-273-8683) administered by APIAVote and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC and a dedicated team of trained legal and grassroots volunteers, Election Protection helps all American voters, including traditionally disenfranchised groups, gain access to the polls and overcome obstacles to voting. The coalition has more than 100 partners—including Advancement Project, Asian American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, League of Women Voters of the United States, NAACP, National Bar Association, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, State Voices, Rock the Vote and Verified Voting Foundation—at the national, state and local levels and provides voter protection services nationwide. For more information about Election Protection and the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline, please visit www.866ourvote.org.