Voter ID law returns in time for spring elections

Campus groups look to prepare student voters for April elections after state supreme court wraps up

More stories from Lauren French


Photo by Kendall Ruchti

Eric Jennings, the reference and instruction librarian at McIntyre Library, and Danielle Rockwell, a junior psychology student, encourage student voter registration with Register And Vote Eau Claire. RAVE registered students at the McIntyre Library from Feb. 22 through Feb. 29.

The state Supreme Court primary election Feb. 16 marked the first time Wisconsin voters had to present an approved photo ID since 2012, but election data shows Eau Claire County inched above the expected turnout.

State officials estimated a 10 percent voter turnout, but Eau Claire County settled in at 11 percent. Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg received the majority of votes. Of the voters, 17.4 percent came from wards where most UW-Eau Claire students live.

The voting process for Wisconsin-native students didn’t differ much this round in comparison to previous years since a state driver’s license meets the ID requirement. Minnesota residents and other out-of-state students, however, needed a Wisconsin-issued ID to vote.

Blugold Card Services offered a voter ID service before and on the day of the election, but associate director of university centers Jeanine Rossow said few students took advantage. She said since there is no charge for the IDs, university officials weren’t tallying cards and don’t have a complete count.

“(Student turnout for approved photo IDs) was lower than we expected,” Rossow said. “We are anticipating [more students] for the upcoming elections where there’s more to vote on.”

Looking ahead

And there is more to vote on. While the state Supreme Court primary election only had one item on the ballot, elections for City Council, the County Board and the presidential primary are soon to follow.

Those April elections will also require a photo ID, and leaders of the UW-Eau Claire College Republicans and the UW-Eau Claire College Democrats plan to make sure students are prepared.

Erin O’Brien, a sophomore political science student with an emphasis on world politics and chair of the College Republicans, said the group spent most of its energy for the Feb. 16 election making sure CR members turned up to vote. As spring elections approach, however, she said the group will spend more time preparing students for the voting process.

The College Republicans, along with the College Democrats, will spend a week in early March tabling around campus and registering students to vote.

“[That week] will be awareness to vote, explaining the process, reminding students that they’re going to need a valid student ID,” O’Brien said.

Rachel Roddy, chair of the College Democrats, said the group’s focus in preparation for the presidential primary is spreading the word about the voter ID requirement and registration through door-knocking and “excessive tabling.”

“It’s been really difficult this election season because there are a lot of students who don’t know about [voter ID],” Roddy said, “and a lot of students don’t know what they need.”

The junior political science – legal studies student said an upcoming presidential primary brings a lot of excitement, but it isn’t without challenges. She said the hardest part about preparing for the April primary is the divide between Democratic hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

She said the most important thing is for students to not lose interest in the race, no matter the results of the primary.

“I think it’s important that even if their candidate doesn’t get the nomination,” Roddy said, “that they still are staying engaged.”

Eau Claire students have a few options for voter registration, including Register and Vote Eau Claire, will be stationed in the McIntyre Library until March 4. The group will register voters at various locations around the city, including Chippewa Valley Technical College Feb. 23 and 25 and March 1.

Eau Claire student voters must present at least one of the following at the polls this spring:
– A Wisconsin driver’s license.
– A Wisconsin state ID card.
– A military ID card.
– A U.S. passport.
– A certificate of naturalization, within two years of issuance.
– A driver’s license receipt, issued by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, within 45 days of issuance.
– An approved ID issued by Student Card Services.
– A driver’s license receipt, issued by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, within 45 days of issuance.
– An approved ID issued by Student Card Services.