The state’s voter ID law is likely to stay in place this November, though U.S. Judge James Peterson is calling for “more aggressive outreach” to voters who struggle meeting its requirements.
At a court hearing today, Peterson slammed the state for its handling of the voter ID law, saying its training of DMV employees was “manifestly inadequate” and that the issues that popped up in recent weeks were predictable. And he raised major concerns that the information DMV provides on its website remains far too complex.
“There’s still a real failure to communicate in simple terms what you need to do to get an ID if you don’t have a birth certificate,” Peterson said. “This isn’t really rocket level science stuff here.”
But Peterson signaled he won’t block the state’s voter ID law, saying he’s not sure he has the authority to do so. He scheduled a meeting tomorrow morning to draft a remedy to the issues raised in court today.
The hearing today followed the release of audio recordings from the group VoteRiders that showed some DMV employees gave people the wrong information about the state’s ID petition process.
That process, also known as the IDPP, lets people get a temporary receipt they can use at the polls if they struggle submitting the proper documents to get a permanent voter ID.
Peterson said he wants to respect the state’s desire to have a voter ID law, which he said is likely constitutional under current law. But the state “really needs to step up” to ensure people understand the IDPP, which he said is a “prerequisite to a constitutionally sound voter ID law.”
Per Peterson’s request, the state on Friday filed information on its investigation into the recordings and whether the roughly 400 DMV field employees have the proper training. DOJ attorney Mike Murphy said the DMV has “taken a lot of steps” to make sure its employees are trained adequately, pointing to the new online modules they were required to complete and the necessary follow-ups with their supervisors.
But Peterson countered that should’ve been happening at the outset. He said the recordings and DMV’s follow-up action were another example of a “disturbing pattern” in which the state only takes steps once issues pop up, saying the state “doesn’t actively anticipate problems.”
“Many businesses that have to train customer service people do that first. … This is a matter of routine in businesses all over the country,” Peterson said.
The state’s investigation also concluded media reports about the recordings were exaggerated.
One example, Murphy said, is that several of the recordings highlighted were VoteRiders volunteers or employees who asked DMV employees hypothetical questions that were likely to trip up the employees.
Only four of the cases submitted by the plaintiffs represented people actually seeking information on what to do, and those were all resolved successfully, he said.
“That is not a description of a system that is fundamentally broken,” Murphy said.
But Peterson said during its investigation the state also didn’t send in actual voters in its spot checks of 31 DMV stations. The state instead sent undercover troopers, and Peterson said though they “went in with the easy cases,” the information they got still wasn’t flawless. Peterson said he worried about an elderly person going to the DMV alone with a more challenging case.
-- By Polo Rocha