Voter ID educational event held to inform seniors

MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin's new photo voter ID law affects every voter. Milwaukee County held a special educational event at the Italian Conference Center Wednesday for seniors and groups that work with seniors to educate them about the new requirements.

Officials say senior citizens are usually an age group you can always count on to vote, and many of them don't have a driver's license or passport. The goal of Wednesday's event was to make sure everyone in the room was well-informed and able to inform others. "In Wisconsin, there's 178,000 residents over 65 who don't have an active driver's license. It won't matter this time if you voted in every election for the last 50 years, you will not be eligible without an ID," Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said.

Lena Mitchell is a senior citizen advocate, and says she'll tell those she works with to get a state ID card from the DMV, if they don't have that or a driver's license already. To get a Wisconsin ID card, they'll need proof of their name and date of birth, and proof of Wisconsin residency and identity. "My next step when I get back to my senior building with the senior people, I can sit down and talk with them and give them more information on where to go and how to go about getting an ID and the help they can get," Mitchell said.

Mitchell said a lot of people think they have to pay for an ID, but she's going to help those she works with to understand they can get them for free. Mitchell and others in the audience Wednesday plan to make sure seniors don't lose their right to vote because of misinformation. "One of the most important services we can do is to preserve access to everybody's right, citizens' right to participate in democracy," Abele said.

The DMV requires a birth certificate to receive a voter ID, which costs $20. Milwaukee County is offering help for those in need, by allocating $75,000 to cover the fees for obtaining birth certificates.

Voter IDs can also be requested online, through the DMV's website.