A Guide to Student Voter Registration

Please note: The following article contains information about student voting eligibility and requirements as of February 2020. There may be updates to these processes, so students should be sure to visit vote.wisc.edu for the latest information. Future Wisconsin elections in 2020 include April 7, August 11, and November 3.

A student casts a midterm election vote at Tripp Commons in the Memorial Union.
There are multiple ways for Badgers to register and vote in upcoming Wisconsin elections this February, April, August, and November. (Photo by Jeff Miller / UW–Madison)

The City Clerk’s Office frequently receives calls from parents and family members asking how their students can register to vote. Students may vote based on a home address or a campus address; it is up to each student to decide which address they would like to use for voting purposes.

Students should remember that they can only vote once per election cycle, in one location. They cannot vote in Madison AND a separate home district.

No matter where they decide to vote, the university supports student learning around voter and civic engagement through a number of efforts, such as the Big Ten Voting Challenge, and the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge.

In collaboration with the Associated Students of Madison (ASM), the university also provides comprehensive voter information for students online.

Is my student eligible to vote?

If a student is a U.S. citizen, will be 18 years of age on or before Election Day, have resided in Wisconsin for at least 10 consecutive days before Election Day, and is not currently serving a felony sentence, including probation/parole, they are eligible to vote in Wisconsin.

Do they need to register?

If your student is at the same address as the last time they voted (including apartment number), they should already be registered. Students who wish to vote in Wisconsin can check if they are registered at My Vote Wisconsin.

Students will need to register or re-register if:

  • They are a first-time voter
  • They have moved to a new address (or even changed apartment numbers)
  • They have changed their legal name since the last time they voted.

Students can learn where and how to register, including what type of proof of residence they must bring, at vote.wisc.edu under the “Registration” section. Students can register online, at an on-campus event, by mail (more than 20 days prior to the election, in-person in Madison, and on Election Day.

What about absentee voting?

Students who wish to vote in their home state, who are studying abroad, who wish to vote early, or whom for any other reason will not be present at their desired election’s polling place on Election Day, can vote absentee. Students should be sure to note all deadlines so that they can get their absentee ballot submitted in time.

    Students can vote absentee in Wisconsin either by mail or in person. For more information, they can visit the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Voters can also request an absentee ballot through wi.gov.
    Students can visit Project Vote Smart to find dates of elections in other states.

Study abroad students should plan ahead about registering, getting an absentee ballot, and eligible voter ID. See tips for study abroad students.

What IDs are acceptable to vote?

Acceptable forms of photo identification include:

  • A valid Wisconsin driver’s license
  • Wisconsin state ID (NOT a Wiscard)
  • S. passport
  • S. Uniformed Services card
  • Veterans Affairs ID
  • Tribal ID
  • Certificate of Naturalization.

The address on your ID does not matter; the purpose of presenting your ID at the polls is to prove your identity.

Students without one of the forms of ID listed above can obtain a UW–Madison voter-compliant ID card free of charge, and present that at the polls together with a Voter Enrollment Verification letter (printed or on a mobile device). Both documents must be presented at the polls.

What if my student does not have one of the acceptable IDs above?

Students without one of the forms of ID listed above must obtain and present both of the following items together at the polls:

  • A UW–Madison voter-compliant ID card (Free of charge – see below for how to obtain)
  • AND proof of UW-Madison enrollment, such as the university’s Voter Enrollment Verification letter (printed or on a mobile device), which can be found in MyUW’s Student Center.

Both documents must be presented at the polls. The UW-issued card may only be used for voting purposes. 

How does my student get a voter-compliant ID card?

Students can obtain a free voter-compliant ID card (which is a separate process than registering to vote) by bringing a valid Wiscard to the Wiscard Office at Union South during their business hours, and requesting a voter-compliant ID card.

Students should note that their Wiscard student ID is not valid as a voter ID. Read Chancellor Blank’s statement on this decision.

Obtaining the free voter-compliant ID card also does not register a student to vote. That’s a separate process that students can learn more about under “Registration

Students shouldn’t wait until election day to acquire the card. Any student who is issued a Wiscard (and doesn’t present a Wisconsin driver license) is asked if they would like a voter ID.

If you or your students have a question that isn’t answered on the My Vote or vote.wisc.edu websites, contact the City Clerk’s Office at voting@cityofmadison.com or 608-266-4601.