Optional ID cards for student voters

Though many universities in Wisconsin may be making costly plans to comply with the Voter Photo ID Law, UW-Whitewater has decided not to replace student IDs.

Instead, the university has decided to produce optional identification cards for voting purposes only.

The Voter Photo ID Law, passed in Wisconsin on May 25, requires individuals to present a photo ID when voting.  There are a variety of forms of identification that satisfy this requirement including a Wisconsin Department of Transportation-issued driver license, a Wisconsin Department of Transportation-issued identification card, and U.S. passport, among others.       Student IDs are also acceptable, with a few stipulations.  Student IDs must contain a photograph, a signature, date of birth, the date the card was issued, and an expiration date no longer than two years after it is issued.

Currently, UW-Whitewater student IDs do not meet all the requirements for eligibility.

“What we have right now on our IDs is our picture, our student ID, our name, and if we are a graduate or undergraduate,” Whitewater Student Government Vice President John Jensen said.

Patrick Johnson

According to Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Thomas Rios, a group of UW-Whitewater staff members met this summer to formulate a plan to comply with the new law.

“We had a group of people that have taken a look at the issue,” Rios said. “They have come up with their best plan to date in terms of how we want to comply … and how to best serve our students.”

The group of staff members—Jodi Hare, Frank Bartlett, Bob Barry, Tom Jordan, Brad Schwoerer, and Dave Halbach—decided that the best option was to provide optional voter ID cards for any student who might want one.  These new cards will have the student’s name, a photograph of the student, an expiration date within two years of issuance, and the student’s signature.

Rios also said that because these voter ID cards are optional, the card will be issued free of charge.

“There will be no charge to students,” Rios said. “It would if we had to distribute cards to every student … but that’s why we are only giving cards to those who ask for [them] … it will be a cost to the university, but we’re not going to turn that cost over to students.”

Johnson said that UW-Whitewater and the community of Whitewater itself have gone about this entire process the right way.

“The university has handled this [change] in a wonderful way,” Johnson said. “The community itself, getting behind the change, not necessarily trying to battle it, they’ve done a beautiful job getting students prepared, and making it cost effective and timely.”

Jensen said that not only will this law will be beneficial to the state in the long run, but that making sure UW-Whitewater students can vote is very important as well.

“When [the state government] included in the legislation that student IDs would be an acceptable [form of identification], I was all for it,” Jensen said.

For more information on the Voter Photo ID law, visit the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board website at gab.wi.gov.

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