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Online Voter Registration and the Elimination of Special Registration Deputies

Posted in
Priority: 
High Priority
Date: 
December 30, 2016
To: 
Wisconsin County Clerks
To: 
Wisconsin Municipal Clerks
To: 
City of Milwaukee Election Commission
To: 
Milwaukee County Election Commission
From: 
Michael Haas, Interim Administrator
From: 
Meagan McCord Wolfe, Voter Services/MOVE Act Elections Specialist
AttachmentSize
Clerk Communication- Online Voter Registration and SRDs.docx100.11 KB
Template Letter to SRDs.docx14.53 KB
Sample Clerk OVR Notification.pdf32.29 KB
Sample OVR Voter Registration Certificate.pdf68.18 KB

The Wisconsin Elections Commission is excited to announce that the State’s Online Voter Registration system (OVR) will launch for public use on January 9, 2017. The transition to OVR will streamline voter registration and create efficiencies for both clerks and voters. This communication will lay out the background of online voter registration in Wisconsin, outline what the new OVR system will look like, describe how the change to OVR will impact clerks, voters, and Special Registration Deputies, as well as identify the OVR training resources available.

Overview and Background of Online Voter Registration (OVR)
The WEC will be implementing OVR in accordance with Wis. Stat. § 6.30(5) as required by 2015 Wisconsin Act 261. State law now provides that eligible voters who hold a valid State of Wisconsin Driver License or State ID Card (WI DL/ID) that has their current name and address on file with the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles (WI DMV) can register to vote online. The WEC’s OVR system will be added as a feature to the existing “Register to Vote” functionalities of the My Vote Wisconsin website (MyVote.wi.gov).

When a voter uses the OVR system, their name, date of birth, WI DL/ID number, and zip code will be compared with the voter’s information on file with the WI DMV. If the information the voter enters on MyVote matches the information on file with WI DMV, the voter will be able to register to vote online, and will not need to print, mail, or sign their registration form or provide proof of residence (POR). The system’s confirmation that the individual holds a valid Wisconsin Driver License or State ID Card satisfies the POR requirement. If they are unable to make a match with WI DMV, then they will still have the option to print, sign, and deliver their registration form to their clerk along with POR.

As part of the law, the WEC must implement the OVR system in time for the February 21, 2017 Spring Primary. The date of January 9, 2017 was chosen as the OVR launch date as it will give voters about 3 weeks to utilize the OVR system during the open registration period before the February Primary. Voters will only be able to register online during open registration which occurs in the 20 days or more prior to an election. For the February 21, 2017 Primary, online voter registration will close on February 1, 2017. If a voter chooses to register using MyVote after that date, their online registration will either be valid for future elections or they can continue with the process to complete their form and then print and deliver it along with POR to their clerk’s office or the polling place.

Clerks and OVR- Impact and Resources
The OVR system should benefit clerks by reducing work and saving time. One of the largest advantages of an OVR system is that OVR records are entered directly into WisVote for voters who successfully register online. This will save clerks time and resources that were previously needed to enter voter registration applications into WisVote. The clerk will not need to update or change the voters’ record or insert proof of residence information when a voter successfully submits an OVR.

Wisconsin State Statute §6.30(5) also states that once an OVR system is implemented in the State of Wisconsin, the role of Special Registration Deputy (SRD) is eliminated. Beginning on January 9, 2017 SRD’s will no longer be able to verify proof of residence and submit voter registration forms on behalf of voters. If a municipal clerk receives a voter registration application where the POR has been verified by an SRD that is received or postmarked on or after January 9, 2017, the clerk may not accept the form as a valid registration. Former SRD’s and voter advocacy groups may still conduct voter registration drives, but their role in voter registration process will change. More information on the impact OVR will have on SRD’s and resources available to former SRD groups is available below.

Clerks will receive an email notification from MyVote when a voter completes an OVR. The email will be sent to the “notification email” address(es) listed in the municipal record within WisVote. OVR notifications will be sent to the same email address currently used to receive MyVote absentee ballot applications. If you wish to update where MyVote notifications are sent, please email elections@wi.gov.

MyVote OVR notifications are only an acknowledgement that a voter has registered; no immediate action is required on the clerk’s part. Municipalities who are WisVote self-providers may choose to ignore the OVR notifications and rely on the voter records in WisVote. Municipalities who do not use WisVote (“relier” clerks) may wish to print this notification for their records, although this is not required. WisVote relier clerks will want to pay particular attention to the OVR notifications, especially to ensure that absentee ballot requests from voters who registered online are properly processed. Receiving an OVR notification means that the voter is now registered to vote and can request an absentee ballot. A sample of the email notification that will be sent to clerks is attached to this communication. As voters may complete an OVR only during open registration, the voter will appear on the poll book that is printed for Election Day.

Municipalities who are WisVote self-providers or providers will need to pay close attention to reports in WisVote that flag new OVR records so that they can merge new voter records with existing voter records. WEC staff will be posting WisVote tutorials as well as updating the WisVote manual to reflect OVR changes. As the WEC continues to develop and improve the OVR system and its relationship to the WisVote system, improvements on voter matching and merging will be made throughout 2017. The WEC hopes that in the future WisVote and MyVote can be enhanced to automatically merge existing and new voter records based on reliable indicators. While the automatic merging of WisVote OVR records will not be part of the January 9 launch, the OVR system that launches on January 9 will include multiple checks to minimize duplicate voter records. One safeguard against duplicate voter records is that MyVote will submit the voter’s WI DL/ID number to WisVote to see if there is already an OVR voter in the system with the same WI DL/ID number. If the WI DL/ID number has already been used to create an OVR record, MyVote will not allow the user to create another record using that WI DL/ID for 10 days. This will prevent voters from intentionally, or unintentionally, creating multiple OVR voter records in WisVote.

In addition to the updated WisVote tutorials and WisVote manuals, WEC is also creating a number of resources that clerks can use to familiarize themselves with the OVR system. A pre-recorded webinar to give clerks an overview of OVR system will be posted on January 6, 2016. WEC will also be posting an updated version of the MyVote Manual, to include an OVR chapter. There will also be a follow up live OVR webinar that will be held after the February Primary in which WEC staff can address any issues discovered during the launch and discuss future OVR enhancements.

Voters and OVR- Impact and Resources
Voters who have utilized the MyVote.wi.gov website in the past will notice very little change to the website. Voters will still click on “Register to Vote” or “Update My Name or Address” from the homepage to initiate the registration process. During the registration process, the voter will have the option to register completely online, without needing to print or deliver their form, if they are able to match their information with WI DMV. Voters who do not have a current WI DL/ID will still be able to complete their voter registration form on MyVote and will then be given instructions on how to print, sign and deliver their form to their clerk or polling place along with proof of residence.

When a voter enters their name, date of birth, and WI DL/ID number into MyVote the voter must type this information exactly as it appears on their WI DL/ID card. If a voter needs to update their name with WI DMV, the MyVote site will inform them that their name does not match what is on file with WI DMV and they will need to appear in person at the DOT office to change their name before proceeding. However, many voters’ address information on their DOT product may be outdated because many people update their address with WI DMV but they do not receive a new WI DL/ID showing their new address. In this instance, the voter will need to enter the last address they have on file with the WI DMV in order to proceed with OVR.

The MyVote OVR system is designed to show voters an error message when their information does not match WI DMV’s data. If the voter’s zip code does not match what is on file with WI DMV, the voter will be given a link to update their address online through WI DMV’s website. Once the voter has updated their address with WI DMV, the voter will be able to start a new OVR application upon returning to the MyVote website. The error message then allows the voter to either correct the information they have typed on the screen, contact the DMV, or proceed to register to vote manually by printing and delivering their form along with POR to their clerk.

When a voter successfully completes an OVR using MyVote, they will have the option to print, save or receive by email a “Certificate of Registration.” The certificate of registration is a record the voter can keep as proof they registered to vote online. The Certificate contains much of the same information and serves a similar purpose as the EL-133 form given to a voter who registers to vote in the clerk’s office during closed registration. Voters might present their OVR Certificate of Registration at the polls or when voting by absentee ballot but are not required to do so; clerks and election inspectors should continue to validate registrations using current procedures before issuing an absentee ballot or Election Day ballot.

Special Registration Deputies ( SRDs)- Impact and Resources
With the launch of the OVR system on January 9 the role of SRDs is eliminated. Many groups that have historically worked as SRDs may now be wondering what role they can play in registering voters. Beginning on January 9, 2017 former SRDs may no longer sign voter registration applications verifying proof of residence. However, these individuals may still be interested in facilitating voter registration and holding voter registration drives.

After January 8, 2017 former SRDs may choose to help WI DL/ID holders register to vote online through MyVote, help voters complete a registration form on MyVote that will need to be delivered to the clerk along with proof of residence, or they can help a voter complete a paper registration form that will then need to be delivered to the voter’s municipal clerk along with proof of residence. Additional guidance for former SRD groups, including a video of how to assist voters with the new OVR system, will be posted to clerk communications prior to January 9. Because each municipality maintains a list of certified SRDs, WEC asks that municipal clerks reach out to SRDs in their municipality to inform them of the elimination of the SRD role and to point them to the OVR training resources once they are available. A template letter to use to contact former SRDs can be found as an attachment to this communication.

Summary of OVR
The WEC thanks all municipal clerks for their attention and patience as the new OVR application is implemented. As with the launch of any new application, there will be opportunities to improve the process. WEC looks forward to hearing feedback from both clerks and voters. The ultimate goal of the OVR project is to make registering to vote easier and more efficient for both clerks and voters. Please contact WEC at elections@wi.gov or at (608) 261-2028 with any questions, concerns or comments about the OVR process.