The University of Wisconsin-Madison is home to upwards of 40,000 students, all of whom play a crucial role in our local government. However, a great number of UW-Madison students are not from Wisconsin. In fact, UW-Madison is expected to increase the number of out-of-state students the university accepts. On balance, having out of state students is a good thing for the University and for the state of Wisconsin. It increases diversity, contributes to a growing and talented workforce, and improves the social and economic fabric of our community and state. However, this does not come without unintended consequences, specifically the challenge many students have in participating in our great democracy through the electoral process.
Today, out-of-state students must apply for separate forms of identification if they wish to vote. In recent years, sadly, the lines to receive voter IDs have been exceedingly long, which deterred many students from voting. The challenge is not a function of students’ interests in voting. Instead, it is one of capacity. At full capacity, UW-Madison can only print 700 of these separate IDs per day. For the upcoming general and primary elections, this could pose an extraordinary problem for the thousands of out-of-state students who simply want to vote. As an out-of-state student myself, I was unaware that these conditions existed. I hope to shed light on this problem and propose a solution to insure that every student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is able to participate in our great democracy.
Every UW-Madison student is a given a school ID called a WisCard. Those attending UW-Madison know that WisCards are used for purchasing food, getting into buildings, buying books, and virtually all other transactions involving UW-Madison. Unfortunately, WisCards are not acceptable forms of ID for voting purposes. WisCards have everything the separate IDs (mentioned above) have, except for two elements; adding an expiration date (within two years of issuance) and a place for the cardholder’s signature would transform the WisCard into a valid form of identification. Student groups, including ASM (Associated Students of Madison), and a handful of other groups support this proposal and extend it by adding an additional feature to the WisCard. This would ensure that no UW-Madison student is ever deterred from voting again.
Sadly, the University has struck-down any progress on the matter. By not addressing the practical and functional limitations of the status quo, students are not able to vote… not because they don’t want to, but because the process doesn’t allow for it. Students simply want to vote.
Today’s UW-Madison students are bright, energetic, hopeful, and engaged. We are here because we know that UW-Madison will prepare us to change the world for good. As leaders, we are here to help our university, our community, and our country move, “All Ways Forward.” Designing processes that improve appropriate access to voting is one important way we can move forward. By making small, but important changes to the WisCard, we collectively ensure that students are unencumbered by long lines, overly burdensome processes, and other barriers.
UW-Madison and its students are bold, tackle challenges, and think beyond today.This is another opportunity to show the world how we can boldly challenge the status quo, improve access to our electoral process, and move “All Ways Forward.”
Be Bold UW,