After last year’s Voter ID law changes there has been confusion among the ranks of students on just what exactly has changed, worrying political analysts that voter turnout might drop from previous elections.
“Wisconsin has consistently had the second highest voter turnout in the nation, Minnesota is first, and it has been shown that when students vote, students win,” said United Council Government Relations Director Analiese Eicher.
The Voter ID law has brought a number of new changes to navigating Election Day in Wisconsin, especially for students. The biggest change is that voters now need to show a compliant photo ID in order to cast a ballot.
But some students are wondering what qualifies as a valid ID under the new rules and where to get one.
“I have no idea if I can vote right now, or what I need to get if I can’t,” said UW-Stevens Point student Kyle Mullen.
Some of the accepted forms of IDs are military ID cards, passports, valid and current driver’s licenses, official Wisconsin state IDs, and accredited university IDs.
Unfortunately for UW-Stevens Point students the standard issued school ID is not up to regulation. Under the new laws, for a student to use his or her school ID it must have on it the date of issuance, signature of student, and an expiration date no later than two years after its issuance date. Also, along with said valid ID, they would have to provide a proof of enrollment certificate, the same one used for insurance companies and financial aid.
While standard issue student IDs do not comply, students can stop into the campus Point Card office and ask to have a special Voter ID card issued to them that complies with state regulation but will still need proof of enrollment.
Most of those IDs are pretty common, but not all students have passports or driver’s licenses, and keeping in mind these new laws apply to everyone not all will have free student ID cards. Individuals can also travel to their local DMV and ask for a State Issued Voter ID card. Be sure if you do to inform the DMV clerk it’s free of charge, or they will charge you for a new card.
“From the top down, DMV employees were given instructions not to advertise free state ID cards to the public, or inform people they are free. If you went up to the desk and just ask for one without reminding them of that fact they will charge you anyways,” said United Council President Seth Hoffmeister.
Students should also know that if they need to register to vote at the polls that they will need to prove their residence with an official document (lease, bank statement, electrical bill, or official piece of mail). A big change in proof of residence is that students who live in the residence halls will no longer be able to prove their residence using an official hall list provided to the poll workers.
“The biggest change in registering to vote on Election Day is that voters will no longer be able to vouch for one another,” Eicher said. “For example, if you and your roommate go to vote together and you bring your proof of residence but your roommate does not, only you will be able to vote. In the past, roommates used to be able to vouch for one another, that is no longer the case.”
“The power of the student vote in Wisconsin has always been strong, but these new laws are meant to and will have a drastic effect on the ability of Wisconsin's students to exercise their right to vote and that will be reflected in the voter turnout numbers in the upcoming elections,” Eicher said.
Students are encouraged by their peer leaders and faculty administrators to overcome the new difficulties and wade through the confusing regulations.
“Voting is the equalizer of democracy; everyone should feel empowered to vote, despite disenfranchisement. Students need to get out and register, then encourage their friends to register too,” said Vice President of the United States Student Association Tiffany Loftin.
“While these new laws are meant to impede the student vote, UW students and UW campus administrators across the state have shown great leadership in educating students and making sure that they have access to the IDs, documents, and information that they need to successfully exercise their right to vote,” Eicher said. “It is my hope that students get educated, get what they need, get to the polls and be proud to exercise their right to vote. Students have risen to many challenges before, and I hope that they will rise to this one.”
If a student would like to learn where to register or check if they are currently registered, go to https://vpa.wi.gov/.
With all the new changes in the law, students can expect longer lines and overall a longer process when exercising their right to vote. Polls will be open 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.