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In Wisconsin, DMV workers give bad information on voter IDs

MADISON, Wis. — Workers at seven Division of Motor Vehicles offices across Wisconsin are heard in newly released recordings giving would-be voters without photo IDs inaccurate information about the availability of credentials that would allow them to cast a ballot in next month’s election.

A worker for the national group VoteRiders released the recordings Tuesday to The Associated Press, after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported about some of the details. The head of the state Department of Transportation told legislators the agency is stepping up training for employees and complying with a federal judge’s order to investigate why workers were dispensing erroneous information.

“Clearly, we take seriously some of the recent news reports about allegations we didn’t provide accurate information or provided wrong information,” DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb said.

Wisconsin law requires voters to show photo identification at the polls and allows for state ID cards to be provided free of charge. In May, the transportation department adopted regulations allowing people who lack the supporting documents such as birth certificates needed to obtain an ID to get a receipt they can use for voting. The rules dictate that the receipts must be mailed within six days of applying.

The recorded statements seem to conflict with those rules. On one recording from Sept. 28, a DMV worker in Hudson tells a person asking for an ID that she’s not guaranteed to get one.

A DMV worker in Rice Lake told a woman “it’s possible” she could get an ID in time for the election, but “there’s no guarantees.” DMV workers in Black River Falls and Wisconsin Rapids incorrectly say that no temporary voting credentials are available.

And in Neillsville a DMV worker says it could take weeks to get an ID without a birth certificate. The recordings revealed that DMV workers in Adams, Chippewa Falls and Menomonie gave mostly correct information.

Attorney General Brad Schimel’s office has insisted in court filings that DMV workers have been trained to tell people without birth certificates that they will get credentials for voting within six days.

Gottlieb told the Legislature’s rules committee during a hearing Tuesday on whether to extend the receipt regulations through the November election that training consisted of online courses for employees. He said nearly 100 percent of the DMV’s 400 employees participated.

He added that the agency launched another online training course on Tuesday and all DMV employees must complete it by Friday. Supervisors have been asked to have one-on-conversations with their workers about receipt protocols, he said.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson in July struck down a host of election-related laws as unconstitutional, including limits on early voting. While he left the voter ID law in place, Peterson ordered the state to improve the way it gives credentials to people who don’t have birth certificates or face other challenges to getting IDs.

A previously released recording by the group VoteRiders revealed three DMV workers giving incorrect information to a Madison man about whether he could get an ID without a birth certificate. Reports about that recording motivated Peterson to say last week that the state appeared to not be in compliance with his July order to promptly issue voting credentials to anyone who lacks documents needed to get an ID. Peterson ordered the state to investigate and report back to him by Friday.

Gottlieb told the committee that investigation is continuing but has been hampered because investigators lack the full transcripts of the exchanges in the offices.

The rules committee, which is controlled by Republicans, ultimately voted Tuesday to extend the credential protocols until early December. The three Democrats on the panel voted against the extension, saying DOT can’t make the process work and DMV employees are discouraging people from voting.