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Alderwoman to spearhead referendum on voter ID

Jay says she is concerned about election fraud

Nov. 4, 2009

After her proposal for a voter ID referendum was shot down by the Common Council, Alderwoman Jacqueline Jay is organizing a petition drive to get the measure on the city ballot.

In July, Jay brought up the idea of holding an advisory referendum on whether voters should show their IDs at the polls, and the city attorney drafted a question to pose to voters. But the council, on a tie vote broken by Mayor Jill Didier, decided not to take any action on the issue.

Instead, they deemed it best to leave it to Wauwatosa residents to determine if they feel strongly enough about the issue to initiate a referendum.

Jay will lead that effort, calling upon the people who called and e-mailed her in support of the idea to help with the signature drive, she said. Although a specific referendum date has not been set, Jay expects to hold an organizational meeting later this month.

"We need to collect 3,600 signatures, but I think we'll try to get 4,000," she said.

The number of signatures needed to get the measure on the ballot is equal to 15 percent of Wauwatosa residents who voted in the last governor's race.

Not much time

But the time frame to gather those signatures in support of a referendum is short. To get the measure on the April ballot, the petitions would have to be turned by the end of December, which means Jay has less than two months to gather signatures.

"When we should do it will be one of things we'll decide at that first meeting," she said.

Jay said she is pushing for the advisory referendum because she wants to see stronger methods of preventing voter fraud.

"This way people in the city of Wauwatosa can say, 'Yes, we're in favor,' or 'No, we're not,' " she said.

She recalls campaigning on behalf of a candidate and getting a list of people who voted in a prior election. One of those people had the Milwaukee County Courthouse listed as their residence.

She worries in such instances people could be voting twice, once from a real residence, subsequent times from other addresses. By requiring a state-issued voter ID card, only one residence would be listed, she said.

Sending a message

An advisory referendum would not be binding, but supporters say its passage would send a strong message to state lawmakers. Jay would like to talk with elected leaders from other communities to see if they would be interested in taking similar action to send a more unified message.

But aldermen who opposed putting a referendum on the ballot without first having a petition said there were more pressing issues for city officials to spend time on.

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