Students can vote in college town

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  • Many voters are receiving misinformation about Wisconsin voting laws
  • Students may vote in Wisconsin as long as they can provide proof of Wisconsin residence for at least ten days prior to Election Day
  • Those registering on Election Day should plan on long lines, should bring a Wis. Driver's license, the last four numbers of their social security number, Wis. state ID, or should check the box declaring they do not have any of these items
  • Students registering at the polls should also bring a document bearing their name and current address
  • Voters must vote at the poll corresponding to their current address in order to receive the right ballot

As Election Day approaches, it is important that those planning to vote understand Wisconsin voting laws. Citizens often receive misinformation based on generalizations that do not accurately reflect Wisconsin law, said Barbara Zack Quindel, legal coordinator of Milwaukee Election Protection, the nation's largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition.

"This issue is of particular concern to students who are not clearly informed that they may vote in the Wisconsin municipality where they live while attending school," Quindel said.

Quindel said voters may receive misinformation from e-mails or news reports that address issues in other states, but which are not applicable in Wisconsin.

"Students may believe that they can only vote at their parents' address," Quindel said. "A student may choose to vote in the municipality where he or she lives while attending school or may vote where they last resided before attending school."

Quindel said students should know their proper polling place and, if registering at the polls, they should bring the necessary documents in order to register. A current Wisconsin driver's license number, social security number or Wisconsin state ID is needed to register at the polls. However new voters can also say they do not have any of those documents.

Quindel said students should also bring a document bearing their name and current address such as a recent utility bill, lease or bank statement.

"Students who live in the residence halls can use a university photo ID in conjunction with the dormitory resident lists, which poll workers will have in their possession," Quindel said.

Voters can ensure they are properly registered by accessing Voter Public Access at vpa.wi.gov, said Kyle Richmond, public information officer for Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board.

"You can look yourself up by your name and date of birth," Richmond said.

Richmond said voters should call their municipal court's office, clerk's office or the city's election commission if they cannot find their registration information.

"If you are a student who has not voted before, you should arrive at the polls with enough time to wait in line," Richmond said.

Those planning to vote early should be prepared for long lines, Richmond said. Last Saturday there were at least 200 people in line to vote at the Madison clerk's office, he said.

"If you are waiting until Election Day to register, make sure you bring proof of residence to the poll that proves you have lived in Wisconsin for ten days prior to Election Day," Richmond said. "If you live in Milwaukee and bring a Wisconsin Driver's license listing a different address, bring another document with your current address."

Richmond said students must vote at the polling place tied to their current address, which can also be found using Voter Public Access. He said in order to get the proper ballot voters must go to the proper polling place.

Richmond said the Government Accountability Board stresses that voters be prepared, be patient and be persistent. Anybody that does not want you to vote could be a source of misinformation, he said.

"If someone tells you that you can't vote in Wisconsin, you need to think about why they are telling you this," Richmond said. "The state law says you cannot be denied the right to vote because you are a student."

There is a great fear of the youth vote, said Janet Boles, professor of political science.

"Sometimes people deliberately try to discourage students from voting, but college students now have the right to vote in the state in which they attend college," Boles said.

Boles said it takes an incredible amount of time to go through same-day registration. She said students should go to City Hall, register to vote and vote right then and there.

"Students should take pride in the community in which they live," Richmond said. "I encourage students to establish their residency where they go to school. By participating in the voting process, you are helping decide public policy for the university and the neighborhoods around it."

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