Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Happy New (Voting) Year!

By Tom Frazier

Recently I received an interesting email from an Aging Unit Director from northern Wisconsin who had the City Clerk talk to a group of 18 seniors about the photo ID requirements for voting which are in effect for 2016. Of the 18 older adults, three (17%) did not have a valid photo ID. Fortunately, the next election is not until April 5, 2016 so there is time for them to obtain a “Wisconsin Identification Card” from the Division of Motor Vehicles' service center.

While this was just a random meeting of older people and not a scientific sample, I think the 17% figure could be close to the percentage of older people who may not be able to vote in 2016 unless they get a valid photo ID prior to April 2016. There are approximately one million people in Wisconsin aged 60 and over and even if only 60% of them vote that translates into over 100,000 seniors (17% of 600K) who may not be able to exercise their right to vote in 2016 under existing Wisconsin law.

I urge the Wisconsin Aging Network (three Area Agencies on Aging, 72 County Aging Offices, and 11 Tribal Offices) and every organization that works with older persons to do what this Aging Unit Director did by providing expert, accurate information about the photo ID that is required to vote in 2016. This information is available from many sources, including Common Cause in Wisconsin, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, Area Agencies on Aging, and County and Tribal Aging Units to name a few. Of course, one meeting is not enough—we need to reach older voters through every possible means, such as media, newsletters, trainings, and having information available wherever older people may be gathering.