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State Elections Board goes for compromise on driver's license requirement

MADISON -- Those who show up at Wisconsin polls expecting to register the same day they vote will have to provide the number on their drivers' license.

If they don't have a valid license, they do have other options that will allow them to vote.

That decision was made by the state Elections Board. It's a compromise intended to prevent a possible federal lawsuit under the Help America Vote Act.

To try and prevent voter fraud, some Republicans in Congress and at the state level say that voters who register on Election Day should prove they're eligible to cast a ballot by providing the number on their drivers' license, if they have one. Democrats thought this would keep legitimate people from voting and wanted the rules eased.

The U-S Department of Justice threatened a lawsuit. The Wisconsin Elections Board subsequently decided to require drivers' license numbers for those registering the same day they vote.

Some Elections Board members criticized the Department of Justice directive.

One member said the federal departments' legal opinion was not a "slam dunk" argument. Another board member, Carl Holborn, described the Department of Justice as "breathing down our necks" and being selective in which states it put pressure on to comply with its interpretation of the Help America Vote Act.

Nevertheless, the state Elections Board passed the requirement to avoid possible litigation threatened by the feds.

Elections Board member Holborn is concerned some people will be turned away at the polls because of the rule. He says the number turned away could be one or could be a thousand; they just don't know. He says they'll know after the primary election based upon provisional ballots.

Provisional ballots will be given to same-day voter registrants who have a drivers' license number, but can't or won't give it to election officials.

Their vote will only count if they provide drivers' license information by 4 p.m. the next day. The Elections Board decided to make it easier by allowing registrants to call or fax that information if they can't provide it in person.