With election day approaching, I think it’s important to re-examine current voting policies that impact college students and Wisconsin as a whole.
After researching Wisconsin’s student voting laws, I believe the current system gives undeserved political enfranchisement to out-of-state students.
According to the University of Wisconsin System, students may vote if they have maintained residency in the state for 28 days prior to the election. After this period of time, students then have the choice of registering in their home state or Wisconsin.
In my mind, this policy is unfair to Wisconsin residents.
Many University of Wisconsin students have never lived in Wisconsin and may not have a deep knowledge about the issues and policies that pertain specifically to the state. They also may not have a strong connection to local institutions and politicians.
For example, Russ Feingold is a well-known figure in Wisconsin who has a long record of holding office in the state. Feingold is also currently running for the U.S. Senate. Would a non-resident student who just moved to Wisconsin have an informed opinion of his candidacy as compared to a long-term resident?
Johnson, Feingold address higher education in final Senate debateIn the last debate before the 2016 elections, Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and Democratic challenger Russ Feingold sparred to gain Read…
Furthermore, a majority of students coming from out-of-state will not live in Madison or Wisconsin after their college career is over. Therefore, they don’t have a long-term vested interest.
But non-residents are still able to vote on political matters that may have a long-lasting impact.
My home state of California has maintained for decades roughly the same student voting system as Wisconsin. In that span, students generally voted in favor of spending bills and tax hikes in local and state elections. After a few years, many of the students left, leaving the burden of payment with permanent residents and taxpayers.
I am not here just to complain about the current system. I want to offer a solution.
A reasonable proposal could be to attach in-state tuition eligibility policies to voting registration. Currently, an individual must work and maintain residency in the state for one year without being a student in to receive in-state tuition rates at UW.
The same requirements should apply for voting. At the very least, this system would ensure that only people tied to the well-being of the state have a voice in its political course.
An out-out-state student myself, I purposely chose not to register in Wisconsin even though my vote might “count more.” I always submit a California absentee ballot because I am more knowledgeable and invested in the political issues of the state. My fellow nonresident students should do the same.
My aim is not to advocate for the political disenfranchisement of college students. I simply believe that we must re-examine student voting policies to ensure that the political will of real Wisconsinites is truly respected.