College News

Student, nonprofit groups call on lawmakers to change student voter ID laws

ASM and Common Cause Wisconsin cite the need of signatures and proof of residency as concerns for less student voter turnout.

ASM and Common Cause Wisconsin cite the need of signatures and proof of residency as concerns for less student voter turnout.

Image By: Leah Voskuil

With less than four months until Wisconsin’s presidential primaries, groups are pushing state lawmakers to change student voter identification laws. 

The Associated Students of Madison and Common Cause Wisconsin have joined in calling for less restrictive policy in determining voter credentials in the state. 

Currently, Wiscards cannot be used to vote as they do not have a signature on them. Instead, students must obtain a voter identification card — which remains valid for two years. 

Earlier this year ASM called on state lawmakers to allow Wiscards to be valid for voting purposes. 

Common Cause Wisconsin believes the extra step of obtaining a new form of identification hinders student participation in elections.  

“We are concerned that many students attending University of Wisconsin institutions are currently experiencing difficulty in being able to vote utilizing photo identification cards issued by their UW institution,” Common Cause said in a statement. “We believe that unnecessary obstacles hinder the ability of students to be able to exercise their most basic and important civic duty.”

Student voter turnout at UW-Madison jumped from 35.6 percent in 2014 to 52.9 percent in 2018. 

“These results show that we as students were excited to vote in 2018,” ASM Chair Laura Downer said at the time. “We want to have a say in the future of our country, and we know how crucial voting is to amplifying our voice. I’m looking forward to even higher student participation in 2020!”

ASM passed legislation in September urging the state to change the rules on expiration dates for student voter IDs. 

“It's a lot of steps that get in the way of accessibility for voting for students, so the end goal for this legislation would be if students don’t have to go through as many hoops to register to vote, they will be encouraged to vote,” ASM Legislative Affairs Chair Katie Malloy said at the time. 

In addition to obtaining a separate ID, students must provide proof of residency on polling day in order to vote. Common Cause takes issue with the expiration date and proof of enrollment requirements presently in place, citing inconsistency with non-student voter ID thresholds.

“The proof of enrollment requirement makes issuance and expiration dates unnecessary for student ID cards,” Common Cause said. “Other forms of acceptable voter IDs need not have expiration dates and are valid indefinitely.”

Common Cause is asking for a law that would allow students at four-year universities to receive a dual student and voter ID. 

UW-Green Bay, UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout and UW-Superior currently administer this type of ID to all students. 

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