State election officials decided Wednesday that technical college IDs can be used for voting, overturning a ruling two months earlier.
Following more than two hours of testimony by school officials and at least a dozen students, the Government Accountability Board changed direction on the controversial law, saying technical college IDs are as legitimate as university IDs.
"I think we were wrong," said Thomas Cane, a board member from Wausau. "That's not something you hear often from a judge."
The state's new voter ID law requires that voters show a valid photo ID at the polls. In September, GAB angered many people by ruling technical school IDs would not be valid. About 400,000 people are enrolled in the state's 16 technical colleges, the equivalent of about 84,000 full-time students.
"It just wasn't fair," said Jennifer Johnson, a Madison Area Technical College student who testified Wednesday. "And I don't think it was the intent of the lawmakers to discriminate against us."
Also Wednesday, GAB reaffirmed its decision to allow the use of stickers to bring university IDs into compliance with state law. The stickers would need to contain an issue date, expiration date, a signature and some form of identifying logo.
Immediately after the decision, GAB Director Kevin Kennedy admitted that lawmakers would likely force his agency to write an emergency rule that would do away with the use of stickers. The policy came under fire last month from a legislative rules committee, with Republican leaders voicing concern that the use of stickers could lead to fraud.
The rules committee has scheduled a meeting to discuss GAB's decisions. Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, rules committee co-chair, said she was bothered by some of the rulings, especially allowing stickers.
"We have been pretty clear that we have issues with that," she said. "There are some problems with allowing stickers, so we were surprised to hear they decided to allow them."
Along with the sticker ruling, the committee is expected to discuss GAB's decision Wednesday to allow only "circulators" and "signers" to fill out recall petitions. They also ruled that pre-filled information must be limited to date and municipality.
There had been some concern by lawmakers that third parties could print out a list of potential voters, complete with their address, and simply ask people to sign their name.
— State Journal reporter Deborah Ziff contributed to this report.