Shortly after reading an article that discussed young voter turnout in midterm elections, Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, pointed to a key method used by Republicans to check the enthusiasm of young voters, who overwhelmingly lean Democratic. “If you want to talk about the GOP agenda for youth it’s simple: suppress their vote,” he wrote. “That’s what a ton of the voting bills have been about.” Ross isn’t the only one to complain about the effects of Republican voting legislation on young people. Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, said that a series of laws passed since Gov. Scott Walker took office in 2011 have made it much harder for organizations such as her own to register college students to vote.
While the main provision of the 2011 Voter ID bill is currently blocked by court order, other provisions that changed voter registration rules are still on the books and are particularly hard on young people, she said.
For instance, in the past, a person who registered to vote more than 21 days before an election did not have to present proof of residence at the polls. After a registration was submitted, the municipal clerk would send a piece of first-class mail to the person’s address. If the mail was not returned (due to a wrong address), the person was assumed to be a resident at that address.
Now, a person who registers months in advance of an election must still bring proof of residence the first time he or she goes to the polls. The requirement is particularly burdensome for young people voting in their college towns. Their current address is not likely reflected on their driver’s license and they are less likely to have documents, such as bank statements or utility bills, that document their college residence.