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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Voter ID debate continues, could cause decreased voter turnout

UW promises to increase efforts to ensure all students have adequate voter ID
Herald File Photo

With concerns about accessibility, safety and lower voting rates at the forefront of the discussion, University of Wisconsin is facing pressure to make Wiscards voter ID compliant.

The College Republicans and College Democrats released a joint statement agreeing Wiscards should be modified in order to fit the requirements for voter ID.

Currently, UW offers voter IDs that students can pick up from Union South. The IDs are free and easy to get, Lori Berquam, dean of students and academic staff, said. Partnering with the Associated Students of Madison, Berquam said UW has been spreading the word through social media.


UW has been offering voter IDs since 2012, and have issued more than 1,100 voter ID cards, Susannah Brooks, a UW spokesperson, said in an email to The Badger Herald.

UW will be taking additional measures to ensure all students who need a separate voter ID acquire one, according to a UW statement.

All new out-of-state students will be given the voter ID alongside their Wiscard when they first get to campus, and there will be volunteers outside all polling places during election times to make sure students have all appropriate forms of ID, according to the statement.

Though the IDs are free and easy to obtain, the current voter ID requirements make it significantly less convenient for out-of-state students to vote, Kenneth Mayer, UW political science professor, said.

“There is no question that these requirements are intended to make it more difficult for students to vote where they go school,” Mayer said.

Both the College Democrats and College Republicans agree UW should change the current Wiscard into a form of identification compliant with Wisconsin’s voter ID laws. In a joint statement, both organizations called upon the university to seek an alternate option to voter IDs.

But the two organizations have different opinions when it comes to the requirement of voter IDs.

Anthony Birch, College Republicans chair, said in a statement that the main focus of their group is making it easy for students to vote in a cost effective way — something he hopes the university administration is working toward.

“As College Republicans, we are for making it easy to vote, but hard to cheat. We believe that the Voter ID law in Wisconsin makes it hard to cheat,” Birch said.

August McGinnity-Wake, College Democrats’ spokesperson said College Democrats do not believe in the voter ID law.

College Democrats, Republicans agree — almost — on voter ID requirement

In the meantime, College Democrats and Republicans said placing stickers on the back of Wiscards to allow students to include their signature and expiration date would be an easier alternative for students than the voter IDs UW offers.

But Berquam said this idea could have potential risks. Students use their Wiscards for multiple purposes on campus, like getting into buildings and buying food at the Unions — someone could steal the card.

Having all the required information on one card would pose a security risk to students, Mayer said.

“There are real security issues when you have a single card with all this information on it,” Mayer said.

Another concern with the use of Wiscards as voter identification is the fact the IDs would have to be renewed every two years in order to meet the voter ID guidelines, but Wiscards are good for five years, Berquam said.

This would place a financial burden on UW, with costs over a five-year period estimated at more than $2 million, according to the statement.

Though debate is ongoing, the requirements as they stand will likely cause issues in the upcoming elections, Mayer said.

“My expectation is that in 2016 we will see a detectable drop in voter turnout amongst students,” Mayer said. “And I think that is a pretty bad thing.”

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