College students facing challenges with Voter ID Law

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire leaders will meet Thursday to discuss the new Voter ID Law and what it means for students who want to vote in November.

Following the reinstatement of the Voter ID Law last Friday, UW-Madison announced that it will provide students with separate voter ID cards starting next week. It’s an idea UW-Eau Claire says it will also discuss.

Student leaders say it’s already a challenge to get students registered and to the polls to vote, but now with the requirement for a valid photo ID, there may be other hurdles.

Jordan Luehmann, a student at UW-Eau Claire, said voting is important because at the end of the day, voting is what makes a difference.

“It’s important for the country's future, it's important for you now even in college,” said Luehmann. “Even if you don't like politics, the one thing you should do is vote. I think that’s a powerful thing to do.”

Jonathan Wieser said voting is what makes democracy a democracy.

“Having a say in the government is voting. It’s important to have as many people not only care about it but have a say in it,” said Wieser.

UW-Eau Claire student body vice president Jake Wrasse said the goal is to foster active citizenship early on. He said local politics do effect students who live in Eau Claire during their college years and they want to be involved. During the April 1st election when the Confluence Project was at stake, Wrasse said voter turnout increased by 210 percent for on-campus student voting.

“For an 18-year-old that maybe hasn't had a chance to vote at home or is turning 18 after they come here, providing that opportunity and the resources to make that an easy and really exciting transition is an important part of what we do.

Wrasse said the Voter ID Law is one that makes sense, but the timing comes with challenges.

“It was implemented during open registration so absentee ballots have already been sent, students have already been registered, and now the fundamental game is changing, how do those old ballots and those old registrations count, do we have to retroactively go back? Those are questions that are still being answered,” said Wrasse.

Students who are Wisconsin residents only need a state-issued driver's license, ID cards, passports or military IDs.

However, under the Voter ID Law, out-of-state students need a student photo ID with a date of issuance, student's signature and a two-year expiration date, which are requirements UW-Eau Claire and most UW school IDs don’t meet.

On top of the confusion, there's the challenge of getting students to vote. Now the student senate has partnered with TurboVote. Wrasse said it’s a lot likes signing up for an email service.

“All you have to do is enter your basic information and that populates a voter registration form which is not fun to do without a website and from there you're able to get it mailed to your house where you sign it, put it in another envelope that is addressed to your city clerk or county clerk, prepaid postage, just drop it in the mail and you're good to go,” said Wrasse.

Wrasse said he hopes this will boost student voter registration rates.

“I think in order to reach the most people possible, it’s important we use a blend of new and old media, new and old tactics and we'll still be doing tabling and voter registration on paper form but I think adding this electronic option allows us to increase the people that we would not otherwise run into,” said Wrasse.

Students say new tactics like this do encourage them to vote.

“I think it would be easier than filling out a paper and forgetting that you have it, like if you get it online I feel like you're always online using your technology,” said student Morgan McKindles.

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