Robust turnout on UW-Madison campus

By: - November 8, 2022 7:20 pm

UW-Madison students registering to vote | Photo by Baylor Spears
UW-Madison students registering to vote | Photo by Baylor Spears

At around 4:03 p.m., Mike Verveer, the chief inspector at the UW-Madison Gordon Dining and Event Center polling site, called to report recent voting numbers and retrieve additional registration forms — they had less than 100 left.

“It’s chaos here, but it’s wonderful chaos,” Verveer said over the phone before delivering the most recent voting numbers. At the beginning of the hour, just over 900 students had cast their ballots. By the end of the hour, the number was over 1,000. Verveer, who has worked as a poll worker for more than 20 years, described it as a robust turnout at the campus.

With over 100 students voting in a one-hour span, lines were long at this location that mostly serves UW-Madison students, who are first-time voters and may not have previously registered to vote.

Verveer shepherded students in and out as quickly as possible, a process that started by ensuring students were at the correct polling location.

“Do all of you live at Lucky, Sellery or Witte? Lucky, Sellery or Witte?” Verveer would ask groups of students before a pause. Only people who lived in those campus dorms were allowed to vote at the site.

If a student needed to go somewhere else, Verveer would search their address, tell them the correct location and emphasize they had until 8 p.m. to vote there.

“Have any of you pre-registered in advance, using your dormitory address?” Verveer’s questioning continued. As students answered, he pointed them to the correct line, often the voter registration line, which at times stretched out to over 20 students.

Voter ID requirements also caused slight confusion for some out-of-state students, who would enter to vote before being told they needed to get in a different line for ID printing.  This line at times wound down a set of stairs.

“They’re from Illinois, Minnesota, and you know all 50 states, and they need to do the separate process of getting a physical voter ID issued to them by the university identification office,” Verveer said. (Wisconsin law does not allow the use of regular student IDs for voting.)

Polling locations on campus employed people to sit outside voting rooms with a printer to quickly print ID’s for students who were eligible. Voter ID laws tightened during former Gov. Scott Walker’s administration, and out-of-state students without a Wisconsin driver’s license or other acceptable form of ID must get a specific school-issued ID in order to vote.

Verveer said since he works at on-campus locations with the printing accommodation, he hasn’t had anyone get discouraged enough not to vote. However, he said he does worry for out-of-state students who vote at off-campus locations without the printing accommodation.

“You think of the thousands of students that vote off-campus, that live and vote off campus,” Verveer said. “They don’t have the benefit of the student ID cards at their polling place.” 

Those students must make an extra stop at an on-campus polling place to get an ID, before going to a second polling place where they are allowed to vote.

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Baylor Spears
Baylor Spears

Baylor Spears is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner. She’s previously written for the Minnesota Reformer and Washingtonian Magazine. A Tennessee-native, she graduated with a degree in journalism from Northwestern University in June 2022.