News Column

Smartphones Can Be Used as Voter ID

Aug. 28, 2012

Jason Stein

Wisconsin voters registering to vote at the polls in November will be able to display a utility bill or bank statement on their smartphone or computer screen to prove their address, state election officials decided Tuesday.

Stating that they weren't "dinosaurs," the retired judges who sit on the state's Government Accountability Board unanimously overruled a staff recommendation that the elections agency hold off on any final decision on the issue until after the fall elections.

Voters needing to register on election day have to show a document demonstrating that they're a resident at their polling place, but currently even the paper copies are just shown to poll workers and aren't kept by them.

"I can't see the difference between being shown a screen with an identifying document or being shown a piece of paper," said Judge Thomas Cane, who said he no longer receives any paper bills or statements at his home. "I think we've got to bring ourselves up to date."

The agency's staff had taken no position on how to interpret a state law requiring voters to produce an identifying "document," but had urged the board to wait on a decision until after the November elections to allow more time to consult with local election clerks.

The local clerks who spoke to the board Tuesday morning were largely in favor of the change or neutral on it but urged the board to make a decision and give clerks guidance now rather than waiting for its October meeting right before the election.

The board made clear that it's the responsibility of voters to bring a computer or smartphone if they don't have the right paper document -- local clerks do not have to provide computers or Internet access at polling places.

Source: (c)2012 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Distributed by MCT Information Services

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