Only Four of the Thirteen Four-Year UW Institutions Currently Issue an Initial Standard Student Photo ID that Can be Utilized for Voting Purposes
The State Governing Board of Common Cause in Wisconsin, the state’s largest non-partisan political reform advocacy organization with 7,000 members and supporters, sent the following letter to the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents:
November 25, 2019
Andrew S. Peterson, President
Board of Regents
University of Wisconsin System
1860 Van Hise Hall
1220 Linden Drive
Madison, WI 53706
Dear President Peterson & Members of the Board of Regents,
We are concerned that many students attending University of Wisconsin institutions are currently experiencing difficulty in being able to vote utilizing photo identification cards issued by their UW institution. We believe that unnecessary obstacles hinder the ability of students to be able to exercise their most basic and important civic duty.
In April, Common Cause in Wisconsin, the state’s largest non-partisan political reform organization with more than 7,000 members and activists, sued the Wisconsin Elections Commission over this matter. In the lawsuit, we argue that the student ID requirements erect pointless barriers for casting a ballot in Wisconsin. Most students are newly registered voters and new to the voting process. The unnecessary requirements for student IDs can confuse and deter these new voters rather than making elections more accessible for them. The lawsuit challenges specific student ID requirements, not the state voter ID law as a whole.
Wisconsin’s current voter ID law singles out student voters by requiring information on college or university photo IDs that poll workers do not need or use. Under current law, a Wisconsin student may use a campus photo ID to vote if it includes his or her name, photo, issuance date, signature and an expiration date not more than two years after the issuance date. Students must also show proof of current enrollment, such as an enrollment verification letter or tuition fee receipt.
The proof of enrollment requirement makes issuance and expiration dates unnecessary for student ID cards. Other forms of acceptable voter IDs need not have expiration dates and are valid indefinitely. The current signature requirement is also unnecessary. Wisconsin’s voter ID law does not require election officials and poll workers to match the signature on an ID with the voter’s signature on the poll book or voter registration form. Other forms of accepted voter ID, such as Veterans Health Identification Cards and some tribal ID cards, do not contain signatures.
Common Cause in Wisconsin believes that the unnecessary hoops that the Wisconsin voter ID law forces students to jump through in order to be able to vote must be eliminated. Our lawsuit seeks to remove these superfluous barriers. Our litigation, however, may take many months or even years to achieve this goal. We are concerned that relief may not be forthcoming before the 2020 elections.
We therefore request that the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents act now to ensure that photo IDs issued to UW students at each of the system institutions are compliant with state law for the purpose of being able to use the student IDs to vote next year.
Currently, student photo IDs are compliant with state law for voting at only four of the thirteen four-year institutions: Eau Claire, Green Bay, Stout and Superior. At the other nine four-year institutions, the photo ID issued to students is not compliant with state law for the purposes of voting. At those institutions (La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Parkside, Platteville, River Falls, Stevens Point and Whitewater), students must obtain an additional photo ID for the purpose of voting.
We believe that providing all students at every four-year UW institution with a photo ID compliant with state law for voting would be a relatively simple and straightforward process at very little, if any, additional cost to state taxpayers or to students. It would make the process of voting more accessible and bring uniformity to the UW System of four-year institutions, which would be of great value and service to the citizens of Wisconsin.
Please let us know how you intend to act on this matter and how Common Cause in Wisconsin can assist you in simplifying and enhancing the voting experience for all of the students attending UW institutions.
Members of the Common Cause Wisconsin State Governing Board:
Tim Cullen, Janesville (Chair)
Penny Bernard Schaber, Appleton
Sue Conley, Janesville
David Deininger, Monroe
Luke Fuszard, Middleton
Kristin Hansen, Waukesha
William Hotz, Brookfield
E. Michael McCann, Pewaukee
Kriss Marion, Blanchardville
Calvin Potter, Sheboygan Falls
Robert Schweder, Princeton
Roger Utnehmer, Wausau
Jay Heck, Madison (CC/WI Director)
Common Cause in Wisconsin