Sunday, September 14, 2008

Voter registration - Unknown obligations

Van Hollen sued the state Government Accountability Board Wednesday, saying it must crosscheck voter names with driver’s license records for some voters who registered to vote or changed their addresses since Jan. 1, 2006.
If I read this correctly, voters in Wisconsin must be registered at the same address as is on their driver's license (NB - That being the case, doesn't that bogus driver's license argument against Voter ID become moot? But that's another episode). How can that be, when all you need to register to vote is someone to vouch for you?
Proof of residence in the ward is required, such as an official Wisconsin driver's license or identification card with your address. If you do not have written proof, a qualified voter from your municipality can serve as your witness to verify your address.
Where does this driver's license requirement come from? Perhaps the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

I tried to find the Wisconsin Statute on voter eligibility requirements but was unable to use the State's search engine without crashing my browser. I settled on this description from the left wing League of Women Voters website.

Determining Your Legal Residence
You must be a legal resident of the place where you vote. Your legal residence is the fixed place where you live without plans to move. This fixed place is your residence even when you are away (vacation, hospital, etc.) as long as you plan to return. Students with a permanent residence in one community and a temporary residence at school may choose to vote at either place, but not both.

That seems curious to me. You generally cannot make different claims about the same subject to different government entities in order to suit your own purposes.

I had personal experience with this when I worked in Pennsylvania. I received a letter from the PA municipality demanding payment of a school tax. I wrote back telling them that my domicile was in Wisconsin, therefore I did not owe the hundred dollar tax. I never heard from them again.

But this is a two-edged sword. When I filed my state income taxes I could not claim my domicile was in PA, and consequently had to pay thousands more in taxes to Wisconsin.

For tax purposes Wisconsin Department of Revenue Publication 122 defines domicile thusly.
Domicile - Your domicile is your true, fixed, and permanent home where you intend to remain permanently and indefinitely and to which, whenever absent, you intend to return. It is often referred to as “legal residence.” You can be physically present or residing in one state but maintain a domicile in another. You can have only one domicile at any time.

Your domicile, once established, is never changed unless all three of the following occur or exist:
• You specifically intend to abandon your old domicile and take actions consistent with such intent, and
• You intend to acquire a new domicile and take actions consistent with such intent, and
• You are physically present in the new domicile.

Your domicile does not change if:
• You leave your state of domicile for a brief rest or vacation, or
• You leave your state of domicile to complete a particular transaction, perform a particular contract, or fulfill a particular engagement, but you intend to return to your state of domicile whether or not you complete the transaction, contract, or engagement


Example 2: You graduated from high school in Minnesota where you lived with your parents. In August of 2007, you moved to Wisconsin to attend the University of Wisconsin. You do not plan to remain in Wisconsin after you complete your course of study at the university. You do not take any steps to abandon your Minnesota residence or to acquire a new residence in Wisconsin. You are a nonresident of Wisconsin for 2007.
IRS publication 555 provides this further guidance.

You have only one domicile even if you have more than one home. Your domicile is a permanent legal home that you intend to use for an indefinite or unlimited period, and to which, when absent, you intend to return. The question of your domicile is mainly a matter of your intention as indicated by your actions. You must be able to show with facts that you intend a given place or state to be your permanent home. If you move into or out of a community property state during the year, you may or may not have community income.

Factors considered in determining domicile include:

  • Where you pay state income tax,

  • Where you vote,

  • Location of property you own,

  • Your citizenship,

  • Length of residence, and

  • Business and social ties to the community.

What does this mean to the thousands of Illinois and Minnesota youths attending college and voting in Wisconsin? Contrary to my first thoughts on the matter, registering and voting in Wisconsin is legal for these students.

However, by registering to vote in Wisconsin, they have changed their domicile from those other states to Wisconsin. Several obligations come with that, including paying state income taxes to Wisconsin, registering their motor vehicle in Wisconsin, obtaining a Wisconsin driver's license, and being counted by the U.S. Census Bureau as residents of Wisconsin.

I am left with a couple questions.
  • Are Wisconsin voter registration requirements in compliance with FAVA if proof of residence is not required to register to vote in Wisconsin?
  • Can Wisconsin voter registration records be cross checked to find voters who have not filed Wisconsin income tax returns or obtained Wisconsin driver's licenses? There is a revenue source here that needs to be tapped.
The moral of the story: Setting up a voting system in order to facilitate vote fraud can have unintended consequences.


JAFAC said...

Well - as a former resident of WI, and a college student of WI, I have some memories - but they are pre-2002 and are slightly faded.

I voted in the city where I went to college in a Presidential Election, but was required to show mail with a local address. I had to prove I was in the right state / city / ward.

I'm - now with the benefit of hindsight - thinking that this action served to lower the voter turnout in my hometown, as I was still registered in my hometown (I turned 18 in high school and registered for the April Primary.)

Also - I didn't see a date requirement for the post mark on the mail - how recent did the mail need to be? Could I have moved away 3 weeks prior and double-voted? I do not know (didn't try).

Finally - I did not have a witness. My roommate and myself were there to vote, but he didn't vouch for me and I didn't vouch for him.

But - as for the tax for WI students - an out-of state student can establish residency after living in WI for 1 year. I'm fuzzy on the details as I never paid attention to it (I had no need) but someone from Florida could move into the state and establish residency after 1 year. I've seen it done - just don't ask for details.

Headless Blogger said...

I know my daughter voted in 2004 using Ogg Hall as her address. The UW facilitates student voting by providing a list of registered students. I found this in the Statute. She never changed her driver's license.

With the tight WI Presidential results, several thousand nonresident student votes may have made the difference in 2000 and 2004. They vote in WI because Illinois is a permanently blue state, so their votes don't matter there.