Voter fraud is an “epidemic.” It abounds, stealing elections from rightful candidates and places losers into unearned elected office. Republican dominated statehouses across the country are “combating” this problem through strict voter ID legislation, where a government-issued photo identification is required in order to vote. Seven states have already enacted legislation requiring state-issued photo ID at the polls and many more are pending.
One of the states, Wisconsin, enacted what Milwaukee Common Council Alderwoman Milele Coggs accurately called “the most restrictive voter ID legislation in the country.” It requires photo IDs issued by the state or federal government and only allows a forgetful voter’s provisional ballot to count if they return within three days with a proper ID.
College students are some of the unintended—or intended—citizens affected by the law. They broke for Barack Obama in 2008 by an astonishing 38 points and remained loyal to Democrats in 2010 by wide margins.
The Wisconsin law does allow limited student IDs to be used as valid identification at the polls — but only those student IDs with signatures and expiration dates within two years on them. But IDs issued by the University of Wisconsin System to its 182,000 students do not have signatures. And no university has such an ID with expiration dates within two years, Heather Smith, the president of the young voter advocacy group Rock the Vote explained to The Nation.
Students would also have to jump through hoops to prove that they are current students, especially difficult for those living off-campus and those who must move every year among campus dormitories. The obstacles “start to feel intentional after awhile,” Smith said.
Even having valid IDs from another state may not be enough. For the more than 40,000 out-of-state students in the University of Wisconsin system, the law “require[s] us to go to the DMV, surrender our out-of-state licenses and obtain a Wisconsin license at $28 a pop,” wrote one Wisconsin undergraduate on the Rock the Vote Blog. A state-issued voter ID card is technically free but it may take money and time to produce the proper documentation such as a birth certificate.
Access to the DMV is limited in states like Wisconsin, Smith said. Three of Wisconsin’s 72 counties—Buffalo,Menominee and Verno —don’t even have a DMV office and other single offices serve counties with hundreds of thousands of people.
The practice of requiring government-issued photo ID was controversial until 2008, when the Supreme Courtupheld an Indiana law in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board. The law requires a photo ID with an expiration date and must be issued by the federal or state government. For out-of-state students in Indiana, having a home state drivers license, Social Security card and voter registration card wasn’t enough to be able to vote.