ID, please. (photo: tray)

I got a couple curious letters accusing me of misinforming in my story yesterday about the voter suppression bill being readied in Wisconsin, and how it will be operative for the recalls. It seems that the Wisconsin State Journal, which first reported on this, now leads on the article linked in my story with a huge caveat:

Voters would be asked for a photo ID in the upcoming recall elections but would still be allowed to vote without one. They would then be informed that a photo ID would be mandatory beginning with the spring 2012 Primary.

Now this is a brand-new lede to the story. It wasn’t there when I wrote on the details yesterday afternoon. Here, in fact, is the lede on the article as it was forwarded to me by a source:

Amended voter ID bill would take effect before recall elections

CLAY BARBOUR | Posted: Monday, May 9, 2011 6:41 pm

Voters taking part in the upcoming recall elections would need photo identification, if the latest version of the controversial voter ID bill becomes law.

That’s how it read Monday night. Sometime between Monday night and Tuesday, the story changed.

Now this is actually fairly common, to see rewrites in a story from the first time it appears on the Web to press time. But this amounts to a negation of the entire story. If voters will simply get asked for photo ID for the recalls but allowed to vote anyway, then the urgency of passage is merely a function of Wisconsin Republicans getting the most possible right-wing bills into circulation before losing the state Senate. Because the Wisconsin State Journal has now lost credibility with me, I sought other sources, including the bill text, before determining that the photo ID provisions of the bill would not be operative for the recalls.

However, that doesn’t mean that other election laws wouldn’t change for the recall. [cont’d.]

It also requires that voters live at their current address for 28 days, instead of 10, prior to an election. That change would take effect immediately after the bill is signed, meaning before any recall elections this summer. Six Republicans and three Democrats in the Senate — including four Republicans on the budget committee — are facing potential recalls.

It was important for the longer residency requirement to be in place before the recall elections, (Republican Sen. Joe) Leibham said.

That piece would definitely be operative before the recall. Other provisions, which would lower early voting down to two weeks from 30 days, and end straight party-line voting, would probably take effect afterwards.

There had to be a reason why Rep. Jennifer Shilling, running in the recall against Sen. Dan Kapanke, accused Republicans of rushing the bill because of “pending elections.” Indeed there are parts that would change the rules for the recalls. And furthermore, with the hoopla over photo ID in Wisconsin, even if it’s not in effect, people may have the impression that they need the ID, both before voting and even during it, if the election officials will indeed ask for ID. This has the potential to cause a lot of confusion at the polls.

Meanwhile, at least four recall petitions against Republican Senators have been verified, so we will absolutely see recalls in Wisconsin this summer. What the voting rules will be for those recalls is still up in the air, pending the voter suppression bill in the legislature.

Notwithstanding the Wisconsin State Journal blowing the story from the start, I hope this makes more sense to everyone.

David Dayen

David Dayen