Wisconsin's voter ID law will present new hurdles to some students and cost UW-Madison as much as $700,000 if the university provides all students new identification cards to comply with the law.
It's not clear how many students would use university IDs to vote, and school officials are waiting further clarification from the state Government Accountability Board about what kind of university ID would be acceptable at the polls.
All Wisconsin voters must present a valid photo ID in order to vote starting with the Feb. 21 spring primary, including a Wisconsin driver's license, U.S. passport, military ID or tribal ID.
College students without those forms of identification can use a university ID that includes a date of issuance, the student's signature and an expiration date within two years of issuance. They must also present additional proof of enrollment.
Currently, UW student IDs do not comply with the voter ID law because they have five-year expiration dates and do not include signatures.
"Students are extremely confused," said Hannah Somers, an out-of-state UW-Madison student and legislative affairs chairwoman for Associated Students of Madison, UW's student government. "I've heard students say 'I'm just going to vote absentee at home because that's going to be easier.'"
UW-Madison and other state campuses are considering what to do.
Issuing all students new, compliant ID cards every two years would cost UW-Madison about $700,000, according to Darrell Bazzell, vice chancellor for administration.
The university is exploring other options such as providing new IDs only to students who request them. Another option would be to provide secondary IDs for voting, which would be cheaper because the cards wouldn't also have to work for banking and library transactions, Bazzell said.
Students would not be charged for a new or second card, Bazzell said.
Before choosing an option, the university is waiting for clarification from the GAB as to what will constitute a valid student photo ID, Bazzell said. He said a valid ID and student voting information will be available before Christmas.
The GAB previously voted to allow universities to use stickers to make current IDs valid, but university officials said they would prefer to issue a second ID. Last week GAB director Kevin Kennedy said he would recommend the board reverse course on the sticker policy at its Nov. 9 meeting.
Students who present university IDs to vote must also present proof of enrollment, which could include tuition payment receipts or an official letter from the university, GAB attorney Michael Haas said.
"That proof of enrollment is really a key," Haas said.
Student IDs issued by technical colleges would be not a valid form of voter ID under the law. Technical colleges across the state are lobbying to change that, said Keith Cornille, vice president of student development for Madison Area Technical College. About 2 percent of MATC's 20,000 students come from out of state, compared with about a third of UW-Madison's 36,000 U.S. students.
Students are also more likely to face new issues with changes to voter registration rules, said Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl.
Anyone registering to vote at the polls or fewer than 20 days before election day can no longer have a roommate verify their residency. That could particularly affect college students who share an apartment but only have one student's name on the utility bill, Witzel-Behl said.
Also, students living in university housing could previously rely on housing lists provided by the university to a local clerk's office as proof of residency when registering on Election Day. But the change in state law requires those lists to indicate immigration status, which under federal law means they can't be shared as easily with a clerk's office.
Witzel-Behl advised students to register more than 20 days in advance so that the city clerk's office could mail a form that would verify residency.