I’m Sam Polstein, an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I am the Chair of Legislative Affairs for the Associated Students of Madison (ASM), UW-Madison’s student government. I’m also an out-of-state UW student who would be adversely affected by a proposed change to electoral law in Wisconsin expected to be voted on within days.
The issue at hand is Senate Bill 6, which is quickly moving through the newly inaugurated Wisconsin State Legislature. Wisconsin Republicans, with majorities in both houses and the Governor’s office, introduced S.B.6 right before the Governor’s controversial Budget Repair Bill became headline news. S.B.6 – or the so-called “Voter ID Bill” – is a measure that will make it significantly harder to vote in Wisconsin. Currently, an eligible Wisconsin voter can register at the polls on Election Day with a lease, bank statement, or utility bill that has their name and current address. Alternatively, under current law residents can vote if someone vouches for them. S.B.6, as currently amended, would eliminate the vouching process and require every voter to have a Wisconsin State ID/Driver’s License, Passport, or military ID. Student IDs are conspicuously absent.
Impact on Student Voting
If S.B.6 is allowed to become law in its current form, it will undoubtedly disenfranchise Wisconsin students. In the fall 2010 election, Wisconsin had one of the highest student voter turnouts in the country. This bill would put an unwarranted burden on Wisconsin student voters, and turnout is unlikely to be as impressively high in future elections.
For out-of-state students, like myself, this bill would require us to go to the DMV, surrender our out-of-state licenses and obtain a Wisconsin license at $28 a pop. Students would no longer be able to vouch for their neighbors. Furthermore, the bill requires voters to live at their voting address for 28 (rather than the current 10) days before Election Day. This is a direct attack on college students’ voting rights as most move into their new residences less than 28 days before the fall primaries. This is shocking, disheartening, and unnecessary to prevent the almost non-existent fraud in Wisconsin elections. Our government should be encouraging students to engage in the civic process.
Fighting The Bill
Two weeks ago, I sponsored a resolution in the ASM Student Council that denounces S.B.6 and calls for the legislature to at least include Wisconsin student IDs as acceptable forms of identification. The resolution passed unanimously and we are working to stop this egregious attack on the student voice. Along with the student organization Wisconsin Student Lobby, I am setting up meetings with multiple Republicans in the State Assembly to advocate for an amendment that would allow student IDs, decrease the required 28 days to 10, and protect Wisconsin’s tradition of vouching for your neighbor.
Next week will be decisive for the bill. The Senate is scheduled to vote early on Thursday of this week, while the Assembly will likely wait until next week. In the meantime, ASM – along with a broader campus-wide coalition – will be at the forefront of the fight to protect the student voice in Wisconsin. We are working to channel some of the attention that is focused on the Budget Repair Bill to make sure that students realize what is happening to their voting rights.
If this bill does pass, ASM will do everything in its power to keep the student vote alive. If we need to get students to the DMV, then we’ll charter buses. If we need to educate students on the provisions of this bill, we’ll set up a lesson plan. The one thing we won’t do is let this bill pass and do nothing to mitigate its effect on students.
“Voter ID” is not only a Wisconsin fight. Similarly to the Budget Repair Bill, if S.B.6 passes in Wisconsin it will open the floodgates to similar legislation across the nation. We have already seen similar legislation in Missouri, and I have corresponded with college students there. Students need to rise up and fight this bill. If only some students are vocal in their opposition to this bill, every student will lose their voice in government.
I encourage you to join our effort and check out our Facebook Page, Save the Student Voice: Fight SB6. Also make sure to follow @fightsb6 on Twitter to get updates on what we are doing on the ground in Madison to fight this bill.