U. Wisconsin Students to Get Voter ID-Friendly ID Cards
University of Wisconsin students’ right to vote got a bit easier on Monday night when school officials announced that they will issue free, supplemental identification cards to comply with the state’s new voter ID law to all students who need them.
This is a major step forward for young Wisconsinites’ voting rights; the University of Wisconsin administrators and students who worked to develop the idea and the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, which approved it, deserve a lot of credit.
The new law, which requires voters to show photo ID at the polls next year, was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker in May. It takes effect in February 2012.
The law could be a major roadblock to voting in the presidential election next year for thousands of students across the state by requiring a photo ID with the voter’s signature and a two-year expiration date. Current University of Wisconsin student IDs do not have the signature and are valid for five years.
University of Wisconsin Spokesman David Grioux said the new IDs will be available to students at the Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Eau Claire, La Crosse, and Whitewater campuses starting Jan. 23, 2012. Other campuses are still determining how they will handle the issue.
In addition to the new IDs, students will also need to show proof of enrollment when they go the polls next year. Fortunately, the school has already prepared a self-service enrollment verification form that students can print on demand.
“It is crucial that students exercise their right to vote,” said Hannah Somers, chair of the Associated Students of Madison Legislative Affairs Committee, adding the new IDs will “make it easier for students to do so under the new voter ID law.”
The IDs will cost the university about $100,000 over the next five years. It’s an important victory for students, though without a disenfranchising voter ID law, such funds could be used for things like scholarships or campus activities.
Efforts like this, to overcome the hurdles to voting created by legislatures in states around the country, must continue, but the real solution is to repeal these unnecessary voter ID laws completely. Our democracy only works if everyone is able to exercise their right to vote.
Abraham White is a communications associate at Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @abwhite7.