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Elections Board clarifies registration rules

After being tangled in a lengthy debate and the threat of a lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice, the State Elections Board is now clarifying what voters will need when they go to the polls this fall.

The SEB says that voters who register on Election Day, but arrive at the polling place without their driver's license number may vote on a provisional ballot.

That ballot will then be held aside until the voter provides the number to the elections clerk.

The SEB says that voters who use a provisional ballot have until 4 p.m. the day after the election to contact the municipal clerk's office with the required information. If they fail to do so their provisional ballot will not be counted.

"Those with driver's license numbers must list them on the registration form, even if they have to provide the number before four o'clock the next day," said Kevin Kennedy, executive director of the State Elections Board. "Only people who do not have a current and valid driver's license may use other identification to register to vote."

The new rule was a compromise reached by the SEB after they had previously ruled that voters would not have to provide their driver's license number. A ruling which state Republicans claimed was in direct violation of the federal Help America Vote Act.

That act requires individuals with a valid driver's license use their driver's license number when registering to vote.

Earlier this year the SEB voted to comply with the Act, but reversed itself this summer because board members were worried that people could be discouraged from voting if they were asked to return home to get the license number

State Republicans cried foul over the reversal and asked for a ruling from the DOJ which said the reversal violated the law and threatened a lawsuit.

On July 19 the board once again reversed itself and came up with the current compromise to use provisional ballots.

According to the SEB, John Tanner, chief of the Voting Section of DOJ's Civil Rights Division, wrote in an Aug. 3 letter to the board that its new rule resolves the issue.

"We are pleased the Justice Department signed off on the Board's action," Kennedy said. "This will allow all qualified voters to participate on Election Day and still provide the necessary registration information."

More information about Wisconsin's election rules is available on the SEB Web site at A link to the SEB is also available on the RiverTown Vote 2006 Information Center Web site at