The voter ID law passed last spring by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature was widely criticized for requiring that voters show a driver’s license or other form of photo identification at the polls. These provisions are now under two court injunctions by judges who found that the photo ID requirements likely discriminate against minorities, the poor and the elderly. Meanwhile, it is the bill’s new residency requirements, largely lost in the controversy over photo ID, that are much more likely to keep students away from the polls in the upcoming June 5 recall elections for governor, lieutenant governor and four state Senate seats. Turnout among students, a voting bloc traditionally thought to favor Democrats, was already low in the May 8 recall primary. The new rules require that voters live at an address for 28 days before being eligible to vote. Dorm leases for 6,900 students at UW-Madison end May 20, and many of the other students living off campus will leave for the summer around the same time. Do the math and the dilemma is clear: There is no time to reestablish residency to vote June 5.
“It’s really screwy,” says Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, which filed one of the lawsuits challenging the voter ID law. “The only thing they can do legally if they move is to vote absentee in what is their current district. That is even if they are moving across the hall to a new apartment. It’s really terrible.”
But it turns out the residency rules are so complicated even Kaminski was a bit confused. Students who are moving out of the dorms or an off-campus apartment — and who intend to return to Madison in the fall — can also vote at a Madison polling location June 5 using the address they had as of May 8. That’s just one scenario, though. Students returning home for the summer who still consider their hometown their voting address can vote there June 5.