Just one year ago, Wisconsin made shocking headlines with Scott Walker’s highly contentious “Budget Repair Bill,” which threatened unions as well as thousands of public sector employees. The response to this bill was overwhelming. Fourteen Democratic senators fled Wisconsin to try to impede the vote, millions of demonstrators flocked Madison in the subsequent weeks, filling the capitol building day and night, and even democratic revolutionaries in Egypt rallied in support of Wisconsin’s demonstrations. Wisconsin democrats lost the fight, and students are now seeing the ramifications of the conservative term.
One of these effects in 2012 has been the implementation of new voting changes in Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker passed into legislation the “Voter Identification Bill” in May, 2011. Employed this January, the primary elections on the 21st of February, as well as the possible recall election, will be the first elections to be impacted by the statute’s new regulations. These new changes have been seen by opponents as an effort to disenfranchise thousands of potential voters with its confusing requirements, and potentially diminishes the student vote. Representative Peter Barca noted while visiting UW-Parkside in December to address the voting bill changes, “In a fiscal year where we have seen nothing done to create jobs, where 1,200 jobs have been lost [in December] alone, and 20,000 since the budget bill started in July, this bill [the voter i.d. bill] seems like a mistake of priorities…These changes seem to limit many democratic constituents [such as students and senior citizens].” The University of Wisconsin System as well as well as campus-dwelling students may find these changes to be an impediment to the voting process.
From now on the legislation will allow the following IDs for voting: Wisconsin driver’s licenses; state-issued ID cards; military IDs; passports; naturalization certificates; IDs issued by Wisconsin-based tribes; and certain student IDs. Student IDs need to be issued from accredited public and private colleges and universities in Wisconsin, include the student’s signature and have a two-year expiration date. Students would have to establish they are currently enrolled in the school if using a student ID. A provision to require addresses on student IDs was removed from the bill by the Assembly.
Student residents looking to register to vote on campus will have a new minimum residency requirement of 28 days, opposed to the prior 10 day requirement. UW-System IDs do not currently meet the legislation’s requirements, and the changeover could cost the system $1.1 million to reissue IDs.
At the University of Wisconsin Parkside, students who qualify are being offered a new college voter ID that fits legislative requirements. Steve Wallner, interim director of student life at UW-Parkside stated, “Most of our students have proper identification since most students drive and are from the immediate area…it would have been cost prohibitive for Parkside to give all its approximate 4,000 students a voter id so they are available free upon request.” The cost of making an id each costs the school about $2.00, excluding the cost of the new equipment required to make the IDs.
According to some Parkside Student Government officials “The cost of the voter ID is much less than the chance of fraud.” Remarking that nine other states have the same voting requirements, along with 19 other state variations of voter ID requirements, Wisconsin is hardly a pioneer in this process.
And while the projected cost of the state-wide change seems high, Steve Wellner has assured Parkside a more cost effective means can be implemented to give students the optimal access to voting. If any student is seeking further advice or have any questions regarding these voting changes the UW-Parkside Student Affairs office would be happy to answer and questions.