10/20/11 – Correction: This press release as sent out yesterday contains a factual error. The release claims that a driver’s license must show the voter’s current address to be considered a valid ID for voting purposes, however this is incorrect. A Wisconsin Driver’s License that has not expired before November of 2010 bearing an old address would be a valid Voter ID. The address need only be current if the ID is being used as proof of residence for registering at the polls on Election Day. The TAA apologizes for, and has corrected, the error.
The Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA) and Associated Students of Madison (ASM) issued separate calls on the General Accountability Board and UW-Madison Administration to clarify rules about the use of university identification cards to vote under the new GOP Voter ID bill. Students throughout the state stand to be disenfranchised and could effectively lose their right to vote should the rules not be set and a public education campaign carried out in a timely fashion.
The TAA, which represents graduate students at the UW Madison, passed a resolution at its General Membership Meeting last Thursday, October 13th. ASM passed similar legislation on Wednesday night, October 19th. Both organizations were motivated by grave concern that the current pace would not allow enough time to educate students around Wisconsin about the requirements of the new law. In addition to needing a valid ID to vote, students choosing to use a university ID will also be required to bring proof of enrollment with them to the polls.
“We intend to make sure every single one of our members, along with all university students, is able to exercise their right to vote on election day,” said Mike Amato, chair of the TAA’s Political Education Committee. “The new requirements are complicated, and it’s going to take time to make sure all of our members are aware of them.
“We passed this legislation to call attention to the importance of having compliant ID cards to vote, as well as the importance of educating students on what they will need to vote in the upcoming elections. We only have a short amount of time before the first election, and we want the process of getting compliant ID cards to be as fast and efficient as possible, so that we can start getting the word out to students as soon as possible. We appreciate the University’s commitment to work on this issue,” said Hannah Somers, Chair of the ASM Legislative Affairs Committee.
Because students often change apartments several times before graduating, few of them have driver’s licenses with their current address. Many undergraduates still have IDs with their parents’ address, which is not their legal voting address. Under the new law, A a Wisconsin Driver’s License that has not expired before November of 2010 bearing an old address would be a valid Voter ID. The address need only be current if the ID is being used as proof of residence for registering at the polls on Election Day.
The TAA commends the University for publicly committing to make new compliant IDs available at no cost to students, despite costs projected to be as high as $700,000. “It’s incredibly important that everyone who is able to vote is empowered to do so. Students, especially new ones, often get their first taste of democratic participation while attending the UW. The GAB needs to clarify the new rules as soon as possible in order for students to remain enfranchised,” said TAA Co-President Alex Hanna.
The next elections to be held in Madison are the February primaries. “We need to start working now to educate students about these new requirements, but we can’t do that until the Administration makes new IDs available, which they can’t do until the GAB clarifies the law. It’s going to take a lot of work, and if we wait until January to start a lot of people are going to get a rude surprise when they show up to vote in February,” said Amato.
The Teaching Assistants’ Association is one of the oldest graduate employee unions in the world and represents nearly 3,000 graduate employees at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Resolution below as passed by the TAA GMM on 10/13/2011:
Whereas the Voter ID Law threatens to prevent thousands of students from exercising their right to vote, and
Whereas educating students on the complex new requirements will require considerable time and effort, and
Whereas the UW Madison Administration has publicly committed to make compliant IDs available at no cost to students,
Be it resolved that the TAA commends the University for its commitment, and
Be it further resolved that the TAA urges the GAB to accelerate its process for clarifying the new law, and
Be it further resolved that the TAA urges the UW-Madison Administration to release a comprehensive plan for issuing compliant IDs as soon as is possible, so that all campus organizations have sufficient time to do the necessary outreach.
ASM Legislation available from Hannah Somers.
For immediate release:
Mike Amato, TAA Political Education Committee Chair, 617-538-7270, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hannah Somers, ASM Legislative Affairs Chair, 412-216-9643, email@example.com