The last-minute reinstatement of Wisconsin’s voter ID restrictions could create voting problems for over 32,000 students attending state universities. University-issued ID cards from most public universities will not be accepted as proof of identification at the polls, and tens of thousands of students will have to go through additional hurdles before election day if they want to exercise their right to vote. University students tend to vote for Democrats, and the voter ID law was pushed by Republican legislators. The impact on students is one other ripple in the shockwave that the 7th Circuit sent across Wisconsin last week, when a panel of appellate judges — all appointed by Republican presidents — reinstated Wisconsin’s voter ID law just seven weeks before election day. Federal district Judge Lynn Adelman had blocked the law in April as unconstitutional and violative of the Voting Rights Act. More than 32,000 students from out of state attend public universities in Wisconsin, and are eligible to vote in the state, yet cannot use a driver’s license from their home state to vote in November. Until the 7th Circuit’s decision last week, out-of-state students had little reason to spend the time and money to obtain a Wisconsin ID card.
“When you are in a different state, your own state’s license is valid as a form of ID,” says Virginia Andersen, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has a valid driver’s license from Nebraska. “It doesn’t make sense to get another license.”
The ID cards issued by most Wisconsin universities do not meet the “proof of identification” requirement under the law, since they lack a student’s signature.
“I have a valid Nebraska driver’s license, and a Wisconsin student ID,” Andersen says. “Now I need another ID card too?”
University officials have pledged to make available new ID cards that can be used to vote. On some campuses the voter ID card is available immediately; UW-Madison will begin issuing the card next week, and UW-Milwaukee will not do so until October 1.