What are we voting for this year? And how?

By Missy Katner

Lumen Assistant Editor

We are nearing that time of year again—election time. But some may be asking what are we voting on this year? Good question.

Here’s the gist of it: Since 2011 is an off-year, the only elections being held in Wisconsin are special elec­tions. Gov. Scott Walker has ordered a special election on Nov. 8 to fill a vacant seat in Assembly District 95, the La Crosse city area. Jill Billings, a La Crosse County Board mem­ber, won the Democratic primary in October and will face Republican candidate David Drewes who is the president of the local chapter of Citi­zens for Responsible Government.

In other Wisconsin political news, the movement to Recall Walker be­gins on Nov. 15. To oust the gover­nor, at least 540, 206 signatures need to be collected in 60 days. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. In its 163-year history, Wisconsin has never had a governor recalled.

I chose not to participate in last year’s political process—and it didn’t turn out so well for me. The day of the elections, I thought, “It’s not the presidential election. That’s really the only one that matters any­way.” False. But I’ll never make that mistake again.

My life was profoundly affect­ed when Walker became governor and the Republicans gained control of the state congress. I protested against the injustice of stripping col­lective bargaining rights last winter in Madison, but at the same time, I felt a swelling guilt. My actions, or lack of them, when I decided not to vote a few months before were equally at fault for my unhappiness and the unhappiness of those pro­testing around me.

Use your right to vote because as we saw in the last year, lives can be directly and hugely influenced by it. Even if you think this doesn’t af­fect you, take 20 minutes from your daily Facebook quota to research the candidates and their positions.

There are some important things to know before going out to vote. Students should note that the voter identification requirements have changed. All presented forms of ID must have a photo and proof of resi­dence in Wisconsin like a driver’s license or passport.

Student ID’s are also accepted, but the cards need to include a sig­nature, an issue date, and an expi­ration date no later than two years after the election. So my student ID with its fading photo and worn out “Fall 2008” sticker on it—that’s not going to cut it. In fact, none of the IDs currently used in the UW system qualify, either. This isn’t a big deal for people who live within the state since they could very likely provide a Wisconsin driver’s license, but it is a big problem for students who per­manently live out of state.

One more detail to point out: any­one who doesn’t provide adequate identification will be offered pro­visional ballots. These ballots are counted only if the voter can verify their eligibility at a later date.

The new voter ID laws do not take effect until the February 2012 spring primary election, but the laws will be tested during this fall’s elections.

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