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City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl cites common problems students encounter during voter registration. She pointed to providing an acceptable proof of residence as an issue students will likely face.[/media-credit]

Although newly passed legislation surrounding voter ID requirements is tied up in court, college students may still face a number of other obstacles while heading to the polls for the upcoming recall elections. 

The Wisconsin Women’s Network held a brown bag lunch discussion Tuesday to consider recent changes in state voting laws. Particularly, members talked at length about the unique challenge college students may face when trying to register before the election or on the day of the election. 

Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl led the discussion and started out by confirming the status of the new voter ID law. For the recall primaries held next Tuesday and the general election on June 5, no voter will need a photo ID to vote.

However, according to Witzel-Behl, the injunction against the voter ID law is likely to be taken up again by the courts before the Aug. 14 primaries for statewide official and congressional races and Nov. 6 general elections next fall, so all voters should begin watching for possible changes. 

The greater portion of the discussion focused on recent changes to voter laws that Witzel-Behl said had not received enough attention by the media but could still cause problems if ignored. 

According to the Government Accountability Board’s website, if a voter wants to register at the polls the day of the election, a voter must bring proof that they have resided at their present location for at least 28 days. The proof of residence must include a complete name and a complete and current residential address. 

Witzel-Behl said the most common form of proof of residence could be a past bill received in the mail, but what her office has seen is in past elections is many students struggling to provide such a document.  

“A lot of college students wait till the last minute to register,” Witzel-Behl said. “They may have so many different people living at the same address. There may be students who don’t have a document in their own name at that address.”

Witzel-Behl said the process could be even trickier for the primary elections Aug. 14. This is a time when college students are moving, and if a student was to move into a new dorm or apartment around the time of the election, he or she will not meet the 28-day limit for the proof of residency requirement before the election.

In this scenario, Witzel-Behl said the students must vote from their previous address and show up at the polling location designated for that old address.

Students can avoid much of this confusion by registering to vote before the day of the election, she said. Witzel-Behl is working with members of the Associated Students of Madison and other members of the community to set up registration booths for students before the elections to make the process easier.

Jayne Mullins, spokesperson for the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources, said students should also reach out to senior citizens, who she said are hit even harder by these new changes in elections laws than students. 

“When you go home on break, talk to Grandma and Grandpa and ask if they have the identification needed to vote,” Mullins said. “If not, help them get to the DMV or wherever they need to go.”