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Thursday, January 29, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 31.0° F  Overcast
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Tweaked Wisconsin Voter ID bill still draws flak for impact on students
Canon: 'A lot of changes in this version are really steps in the wrong direction.'
Canon: 'A lot of changes in this version are really steps in the wrong direction.'

Critics of Wisconsin's proposed Voter ID bill say changes made this week by the state Assembly do not erase their concerns that it will serve to disenfranchise students.

The bill, AB-7, would require Wisconsin residents to show identification at the polls in order to vote. On Tuesday it passed the Committee on Election and Campaign Reform on a party-line vote.

The committee did approve some changes to the bill, which will likely move to the Assembly floor in the near future. Most significantly, the Assembly version would include university-issued student identification cards as an acceptable form of ID.

But there's a catch: the student IDs must include a current address, birth date, signature and expiration date -- requirements no college or university in Wisconsin currently meets.

"A lot of changes in this version are really steps in the wrong direction," says David Canon, a UW-Madison political science professor and election law expert.

According to Canon, the requirement of a current address for student IDs is "more onerous" than those for other IDs, like military identification, and creates a kind of double standard.

"If [bill author Rep. Stone's] stated purpose is to make driver's licenses and student IDs equivalent, he needs to makes them equivalent," says Canon. "It's not the same standard and it's a very significant difference between the two."

Additionally, Canon notes that UW campus IDs serve as room keys, making the rule that they contain an updated address dangerous, in terms of student security. And universities would have to bear the cost of issuing updated ID cards to students, which he says they are ill-equipped to handle.

Samuel Polstein, a UW-Madison student council member and a leader of student efforts opposing the bill, is also dissatisfied with the requirement.

"I'm obviously glad to see student IDs in there, but ... the current address standard for students IDs is not reasonable," he says.Madison Ald. Scott Resnick, whose downtown district is largely populated by students, is optimistic that the bill will see "at least a few more" amendments as it heads for an Assembly vote.

"You will see some changes to the student ID element," Resnick assures.

Other possible amendments include those suggested by the Government Accountability Board executive director Kevin Kennedy. In a letter (PDF) to Election Committee Chair Rep. Gary Tauchen (R-Bonduel), Kennedy wrote that "the legislation in its present form will create significant problems."

Kennedy urged Tauchen to "give serious consideration to making significant changes" including simplifying the absentee ballot process, reducing the number of provisional ballots, facilitating overseas and military participation in the Fall primary, and more.

Kennedy also opposed changes to student proof of residency requirements, writing: "In order to cultivate engaged, active citizens we need to facilitate voting among our youth rather than imposing artificial barriers to participation."

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