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With proper planning, voting as a student can be simple

September 21, 2016

With the presidential election coming up on Nov. 8, some UW-River Falls students will be heading to the polls for the first time. Students may be unsure how to register to vote, where to go or what to bring. The Deputy Clerk for the City of River Falls, Bridget Hieb, has answers.

Q: How do I register to vote?
A: Wisconsin has a statewide voter registration application that anyone in the state can complete. Visit the My Vote Wisconsin website for all things elections. We suggest registering to vote well in advance of the presidential election. If not, expect to wait in line to register to vote.

Q: What do I need to have in order to register?
A: An acceptable form of proof of residence. The list of acceptable documents is listed on the back of the voter registration application. Typically for students that live on campus, the easiest form of proof of residence is a voter verification form that they can obtain from a link on their eSIS account. I believe it is toward the bottom on the right hand side. For students that live off campus, they should reference the list on the back of the voter registration application. They can also use eSIS, but they have to enter their ‘local’ address into their account first.

Q: If I’m already registered to vote at home, where should I vote?
A: Students have a choice. They can remain registered to vote at their ‘home’ address and either go back home to vote or request an absentee ballot from their municipal clerk. Wisconsin residents can request an absentee ballot through the My Vote Wisconsin website. Out-of-state residents would need to look up their municipal clerk and find out what the procedure is to request an absentee ballot or travel back home to vote.
The other option is for the student to register to vote in River Falls. By doing this, it would cancel any registration they have in Wisconsin or any other state. You can only be registered in one state and one municipality. To vote a ballot in Wisconsin, the voter must have an acceptable form of photo ID. The most common is a Wisconsin Department of Transportation-issued driver license or WI DOT-issued identification card and a passport. UWRF student IDs do not conform to the law, but students can obtain a special photo ID specifically for voting. I believe they can get this ID at the same office on campus that they get their student IDs.

Q: When will the polls be open for the presidential election this November?
A: Polls will be open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m.

Q: If I live on campus, where should I go to vote?
A: Four of the dorms vote at the River Falls High School at 818 Cemetery Road: Johnson, May, Prucha and Stratton. The rest vote at the University Center (UC). Off-campus student polling locations will depend on their address. They can verify where they must vote at the My Vote Wisconsin website.

Q: What do I need to bring with me when I go to the polls?
A: If you do not register to vote ahead of time, we suggest having your application filled out and ready for the election inspector to check and approve. You will need to bring a copy of your acceptable proof of residence or be prepared to show it electronically. If you are registered in advance of the election, all you need to bring is an acceptable form of photo ID.

Q: How do I get a voter ID?
A: Wisconsin has a website with great information on Photo IDs and how to obtain them, Bring it Wisconsin. As I mentioned above, students that do not have an acceptable form of photo ID can obtain a special photo ID for voting from the campus office. If they use this special photo ID, they will need to also bring a document verifying their enrollment at UWRF (class schedule, tuition bill, voter verification form, etc.). The Registrar’s Office can help with enrollment documents if students cannot find something on their eSIS account.

Q: I registered to vote here last year and went home over the summer. Is my voter registration still valid?
A: First, I would suggest the student visit the My Vote Wisconsin website to check their voter status. If a voter has had a change of address since the last time they voted, they must complete a new voter registration application. This includes changing dorm rooms or apartments.

Q: Under what circumstances should I consider voting early or absentee? How would I go about doing that?
A: You do not need a reason to vote absentee in Wisconsin. The presidential election will be busy. Various times of the day are worse than others, but the busiest time starts at 4 p.m. and goes through 8 p.m. You can vote an absentee ballot by mail or in person. To vote by mail, a request in writing is required. This can be done using the Application for Absentee Ballot found on the My Vote Wisconsin website. Once this is completed, mail it to your municipal clerk along with an acceptable form of photo ID. To vote an absentee ballot in person, the voter should check with their municipal clerk for available voting times.

Q: Are there any reasons for which I would be unable to vote?
A: Many voters wait until the last minute to check on their voter status, to register to vote or check on what they need in order to register and vote. Some voters are frustrated that they need additional documentation or don’t have the correct documentation for registration or voting and give up or run out of time. The key is being prepared. Get everything in order at least one week before Election Day. Just because you voted in the last presidential election does not guarantee that you are still registered to vote.

Q: If I have any additional questions, how can I have them answered?
A: Voters should contact the municipal clerk where they will be voting. Wisconsin voters can find their clerk information online at the My Vote Wisconsin website.

Q: Where can I find more information?
A: Voters can visit the My Vote Wisconsin website at https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/ or the Elections Commission website at http://www.gab.wi.gov/ or Bring It Wisconsin website at http://www.bringitwisconsin.com/.
City of River Falls voters are encouraged to like our page on Facebook or visit our website at www.rfcity.org.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like people to know?
A: We are looking for people to help us out on Election Day. We need volunteers to help direct voters to the ballroom in the UC, workers to help out with voter registration and volunteers to be Greeters. Directing voters and the Greeter position are volunteer positions and registering voters would be a paid position. If anyone is interested, they can call my office at 715-426-3419.