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Voter registration surprises unaware voting students

April 13, 2012

Students at UW-River Falls need to be informed about voter registration before they hit the polls warned school and city officials.

“Lack of experience is one the problems,” said Gregg Heinselman, associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs. “A lot of students are voting for the first time and unaware of all of the documentation they need.”

Waiting till the last minute to register also adds to the confusion.

“A big problem with the student population is that many register to vote at the polls on election day,” said Bridget Hieb, deputy clerk for the city of River Falls. “By registering on election day, they must provide an acceptable form of ID.”

A lot of students are not aware of this and are not aware of the documentation they need to provide in order to vote. In the past, Wisconsin allowed a collaborating witness when voters registered, but the law has changed to where witnesses can no longer be used.

“Open registration is a good time to register to vote,” said Hieb. “Between each election there is an open registration from April 4 to April 18 at 5 p.m.”

Anybody can register during this period and not have to provide proof of residency. There are also registration forms on the city of River Falls website. Students can either mail or bring the completed forms to City Hall located on 222 Lewis St. in River Falls.

One stipulation with mailing it in is if this is the first time that a student has registered to vote, they have to provide proof of residency. A student would have to provide their student ID along with their fee statement agreement, which can be printed off eSIS online.

Students can register after April 18 at City Hall but the deadline for this is May 4. The key is to register early because of the long lines and because it will make things run much smoother on election day.

In some regards, the choices that students have can further complicate things. If their parents reside in Wisconsin, a student can choose to remain registered to vote under their parents’ address, or choose to vote where they reside. If they chose to vote somewhere else they would have to request an absentee ballot. The clerk of that city would send students a ballot they would vote and then send it back to the clerk.

“It all depends on the students’ circumstances,” said Hieb. “If the student has been living in River Falls for a while, they may want more input in what goes on in their city and they may choose to vote in River Falls.”

The city of River Falls is planning on putting together pamphlets, which are geared towards students, and will contain important information that students will need to know.

These pamphlets will be put in the University Center on the first level. They will also be put in the door hall lobbies in the dorm halls. In some ways voter registration confusion affects students living on campus more because they don’t always have ID that off-campus students have.

Wisconsin is waiting till after the April 3 election to make a decision about the future photo ID law that was put on a temporary hold.