If Republicans in the state Legislature have their way, students' ability to participate in Wisconsin elections will be seriously diminished. Two proposals currently winding their way through the Legislature will make it difficult at best, impossible at worst, for students to cast their ballots in future elections.
First, the GOP has proposed a constitutional amendment that would require voters to show an up-to-date driver's license or official state or federal photo ID in order to vote. While this may sound somewhat innocuous at first blush, I would ask every student reading this article to take a look in your wallet and see if the address on your driver's license is the address at which you are currently living. My guess is that for most students the answer is no, and because of this the GOP would not let you vote.
But let's say it's Election Day and you managed to get over to the Department of Transportation and get your license updated. Now all you need to do is go register and vote at your new polling place, right? Well, no. The GOP also has a bill pending that would eliminate Election Day voter registration, which is utilized by over 1/3 of student voters. So unless you knew about the law, got your drivers license updated and registered to vote at least two weeks before the election, you would not be casting a vote.
So why is the GOP trying to make it so difficult for students to vote? According to the GOP, voter fraud is rampant in Wisconsin and all we need to do to fix "the problem" is to require photo IDs and put an end to Election Day voter registration.
The problem with this solution is that there is no problem. Numerous investigations on the state, federal and local level have turned up no evidence of the "rampant fraud" so often cited by the GOP. Even Republican U.S. Attorney Vince Biskupic publicly stated that he found no evidence of a widespread conspiracy to commit fraud.
But, undeterred by facts, the chair of the State Republican Party, along with the author of the Photo ID bill, recently held a press conference in front of a person's home in Milwaukee and accused the resident of voting twice — once in Milwaukee and once in Chicago. But oops, a quick fact check showed that the young man in question did not vote twice. In fact, he cast his one and only vote in Chicago where he is attending seminary. The GOP, however, refuses to apologize to this young priest-in-training.
There is no question that our election system needs a tune-up. We need more poll workers; we need more training and higher pay for poll workers; we need better administration of our elections.
We don't need the GOP to implement the most extreme, restrictive voting requirements in the nation. We don't need to make it more difficult for students to participate in our democracy.
State Rep. Joseph Parisi represents Wisconsin's 48th Assembly District.