Discouraging the vote

Voter ID law will deter student voting

In early November of 2010, I remember a nervous, 18-year-old version of me reluctantly dragging myself down to the polls to exercise my right to vote for the very first time. Other than voting for prom court, I had never participated in organized democracy before, so I was anxious when I stepped into Davies Center to cast my ballot. I did end up voting that day, but looking back I can’t help but wonder what would have happened had I been set back because of my ID card.

Although it may seem a little pathetic, I believe that for a first time voter, going through the whole process of registering to vote can be irritating and confusing. Now, in this November 2014 election, the new voter ID law provides another hoop for many student voters to jump through. A hoop that may very well be the nail in the coffin for the voting ambitions of many UW-Eau Claire students.

Under new Wisconsin law, residents need a suitable Wisconsin ID to register to vote. Roughly a quarter of the Eau Claire student body is from Minnesota and does not carry Wisconsin driver’s licenses, according to the university Factbook. Minnesota driver’s licenses and standard Blugold cards are not acceptable forms of identification to vote in this election. However, Eau Claire students can receive free voter ID cards on the first floor of Davies Center.

Although I applaud the university for providing this service, I can’t help but speculate this service going underutilized.

The problem I have with the new voter ID law isn’t that it makes voting too difficult, because I don’t believe it does. I see the voter ID law as just another step that will dissuade reluctant voters from registering to vote.

I believe voting and not voting become habits. Eau Claire has plenty of students who will be eligible to vote for their first time this fall. The photo ID law could be just enough of a reason to keep them voting now, and maybe even in future elections.

There are students at Eau Claire who will be excited to vote and will not let this law be a bother at all, and there are students who will not be affected by this law because they had no voting ambitions in the first place. But the students who will be affected are the ones who are hesitant to vote because they are nervous, uncertain or do not think their vote matters that much anyway.

This new legislation could be all the discouragement they need to become non-participants every November.

Since that fall four years ago, I have participated in every election cycle. I now consider myself to be an active member in American democracy. Although I hate to say it, if some silly law had deterred me from registering to vote back then, I may have gotten in the habit of neglecting my civic duty.