Senate wants student IDs to help voters
October 28, 2011
The UW-River Falls Student Senate is working to get student ID cards to comply with a new Wisconsin law requiring voters to show a photo ID before casting a ballot, a requirement Student Association President Tyler Halverson called “a transparent attempt” by Republican lawmakers to keep college students from voting.
“My big project this summer was to work with Gregg Heinselman, the vice chancellor of Student Affairs, to find a way to make our IDs compliant,” Halverson said. “We’ve arrived at what that’s going to look like, and they’ll begin to be produced early in the spring semester.”
The new IDs would tentatively cost students $1, but Halverson said he is working on legislation that would have the Senate pay for them, potentially out of its reserve account. Halverson, who said he affiliates with the Democratic Party, said the Wisconsin voter photo ID law restricts groups who largely vote Democrat, such as college students and the elderly.
“It’s lock-step with the Republican agenda to defeat Obama,” Halverson said. “It’s absolutely a partisan issue.”
The law requires voters in Wisconsin to show a photo ID at polling stations. The list of acceptable IDs includes Wisconsin-issued driver licenses, U.S. passports and military ID cards. Student ID cards from UW-System schools can also be used to vote under the new law. However, Student IDs would need to show the date they were issued and the student’s signature— neither of which are present on UWRF cards.
Students living in Wisconsin who meet the minimum 28-day residence requirement needed to vote in the state would be denied a ballot if they do not have an approved photo ID. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has been a strong opponent to the law.
“The Republican voter suppression bill is an affront to democracy in Wisconsin. It is morally repugnant. Worse, including the changes in the absentee ballot rules, it is coldly calculated to make it so the state’s most vulnerable citizens and its young people are denied a voice in who will govern them,” in an April 27 statement by Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate.
Support for the law comes largely from Republicans, who claim it will reduce fraud in Wisconsin elections.
“Growing up in the Chicagoland area, where voter fraud has been well-noted, I saw the positive effects that voter ID had on elections there,” wrote Michael Leonard, the chair of the College Republicans at UWRF, in an email statement. “With respect to Wisconsin, I see the voter ID law as a step towards limiting voter fraud here.”
The voter ID bill was approved May 19 by a vote of 19-5 in the Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Senate. It was then signed into law May 25 by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
“Requiring photo identification to vote will go a long way to eliminate the threat of voter fraud,” said Walker in a released statement. “If you need an ID to buy cold medicine, it’s reasonable to require it to vote.”
A similar photo ID law was vetoed in Minnesota last May by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.
Minnesota voters will only need to show a photo ID at polling stations if they are voting for the first time and registered to vote by mail without verifying their identity, according to a Pew Center website detailing state election rules.
Halverson said it is important to note that the law does not officially go into effect until the primary elections in February 2012. Voters participating in school referendums in November will be asked to show photo IDs, but will not be turned away if they do not have one.
“It’s more of an exercise at this point,” Halverson said. People voting without a valid photo ID in 2011 will be given literature about the new requirements, according to the website for the Government Accountability Board, the state agency tasked with implementing the new law.
Halverson said the Senate Legislative Affairs Committee would be handling marketing for the new IDs at UWRF. Senator Asher Heer, the director of Legislative Affairs, said he is in the process of working with the University to put together posters and educational displays to inform students about the photo ID law and the steps they will need to take in order to vote in 2012.
“There are big elections coming up, and students need to participate,” Halverson said. “It’s very important that students get out to vote, otherwise they get ignored.”