Institute Calls For GAB to Recognize E-Bills As Proof of Residence, Prevent Disenfranchisement of Legal Voters

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MADISON, Wis. — One Wisconsin Institute is urging the state Government Accountability Board (GAB) to update and evaluate their interpretation of Wisconsin law to allow legal voters to use electronic billing statements to satisfy proof of residency requirements for voter registration.

Institute Executive Director Scot Ross commented, “We are respectfully asking GAB to address its interpretation of the law, so thousands of legal voters, including many in underrepresented communities, are not denied access to the ballot box.”

The legal memo to GAB is available at https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8LurBVUNQZfNDhDRU80ZGRXUjA.

Many legal voters satisfy state proof of residency requirements by using a copy of their current utility or phone bill. In recent elections the GAB adopted the informal policy that only paper copies of these documents are acceptable.

However, most banks, utility, and phone companies offer and encourage customers to use electronic billing, meaning they no longer receive a paper copy of their bill. This has led to a situation where, under the current GAB interpretation of the law, legal voters are unable to use electronic bills and bank statements to verify their residence.

Underrepresented populations like lower income individuals and students who rent instead of own a home, or are in transitional housing, could find themselves particularly at risk under the current interpretation.

In the memo to the GAB, the Institute noted that voter file purges from 2008, combined with individuals who may have moved since the last regularly-scheduled general election could result in disenfranchisement in the upcoming November elections.

Ross concluded, “We’re urging the GAB to make sure our voting laws don’t unnecessarily or unintentionally disenfranchise legal voters. Allowing legal voters to use their electronic utility and banking records will satisfy the proof of residency requirement and make sure thousands of otherwise qualified electors aren’t denied the franchise in November and beyond.”

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One Wisconsin Institute is dedicated to a Wisconsin with equal economic opportunity for all.