The huge voter turnout in the Wisconsin primary could have been even higher without the state’s new photo identification requirement, voter advocacy groups said Wednesday. The 2011 voter ID law went into effect this year after lengthy court battles and had its first statewide run in the February election. The state Government Accountability Board says the primary Tuesday went more smoothly than February at the polls, but some voters faced long lines and difficulties trying to obtain valid IDs. “Probably by far the population that seemed to be struggling yesterday were students attempting to use their student IDs to meet the photo ID requirement,” said Neil Albrecht, executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission. Most college IDs aren’t acceptable as photo IDs under the law, so University of Wisconsin schools and other colleges have been providing students with free secondary ID cards specifically for voting. Those IDs include a signature and expiration date and must be shown alongside proof of enrollment.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison office issued 3,846 such IDs leading up to Tuesday, including 1,272 on Election Day alone. Voters at Marquette University and University of Wisconsin-Green Bay meanwhile faced long lines to register to vote.
One of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s machines was also down for a while Monday morning, which spokeswoman Meredith McGlone said affected about 25 students. She said those students were directed to the other campus ID office or told to come back later. Overall, McGlone said, Tuesday’s voting on the Madison campus went well. “The only reports that we have received are that things went smoothly and there were no long lines or delays,” McGlone said.
Albrecht said colleges and universities can take steps to smooth the process for students by issuing student IDs that automatically meet the voter ID requirement and by emphasizing voter registration prior to the election.