Timing of Wisconsin Recall May Thwart Student Voters
When Wisconsin's GOP-controlled and ALEC-following Legislature toughened state voter ID rules, they did more than just impose stricter voter ID requirements, which, in part were intended to make it harder for university students to vote. They also imposed stricter residency requirements--how long a prospective voter would have to live at their current address before being eligible to cast a vote in upcoming elections.
The voter ID piece of this war-on-voters legislation has been challenged in court and thrown out for now--though it is being appealed. But according to a Madison-based publication, TheDailyPage.com, the 28-day residency requirement is bumping up against the academic school year calendar, because the University of Wisconsin students have to move out of their dorms before the end of May and the gubernatorial recall election is June 5th.
"The new rules require that voters live at an address for 28 days before being eligible to vote. Dorm leases for 6,900 students at UW-Madison end May 20, and many of the other students living off campus will leave for the summer around the same time," the website reported. "Do the math and the dilemma is clear: There is no time to reestablish residency to vote June 5."
The report continued: "It's really screwy," says Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, which filed one of the lawsuits challenging the voter ID law. "The only thing they can do legally if they move is to vote absentee in what is their current district. That is even if they are moving across the hall to a new apartment. It's really terrible."
The odds are not in the students favor, which is exactly what the authors of the newly restrictive voting laws intended. This is a cautionary tale that is surely to have echoes in other states and battleground races across the country in 2012. Voter eligibility is not that complex, but legislators seeking to make the process more complex can create roadblocks for every step of the way, as apparently is the case here.
Like corporate lawyers, they create and write fine-print into laws never knowing when it will take effect. Less flexibility on residency requirements, documentary proof of citizenship, state government-issued photo ID are all parts of this same sordid playbook. It is not as if these students have not been living in the state for at least 28 days, where the electoral question before them on June 5th involves recalling statewide offices--in the case of the governor and lt. governor. Thus, they should be eligible to vote, by any reasonable standard. But who says politics is reasonable?
The only question here is not whether more proof is needed of the GOP's war on perceived Democratic voters, but who will lead the charge back into court to seek an injunction to protect eligible student voters? In a handful of states, people whose registration status is questioned for local elections because they recently moved--such as electing school board members--still can be issued provisional ballots that are counted for statewide contests, such as certain constitutional officers and federal offices. That could be a fair legal remedy--let the students vote in the gubernatorial recall, but perhaps not the state senate races.