Under recently imposed laws, a student ID may not be considered valid on Nov. 6, meaning that many students will have to take steps to ensure they have proper ID for Election Day.
Do you plan to vote in the 2012 presidential election?
For some college students, plan is the operative word in that question.
Under recently imposed voter ID laws, a student ID may not be considered a valid form of ID, meaning that many college students will need to make prior arrangements to guarantee that their vote counts on Election Day.
The extent to which voter ID laws affect individuals across state boundaries varies. In Tennessee, any person who presents a student ID at the voting booth will be turned away. In Pennsylvania, a student ID might be acceptable, provided that the ID includes a name, photograph and expiration date.
Democrats and civil rights groups are the main opponents to voter ID laws, according to USA TODAY. Let My People Vote is amongst these anti-voter ID law campaigns. According to the campaign’s website, 18% of seniors and young voters do not have a valid form of ID, along with 25% of African Americans. This excludes 3.2 million citizens from voting, as reported by the Brennan Center.
One member of the Republican Party has expressed a belief that the deterrents preventing certain Pennsylvanians from voting will guarantee a victory for Mitt Romney in the state.
While reciting a list of legislative accomplishments to the Republican State Committee in June, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) said, “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”
Turzai’s comment could reflect voter ID laws’ stated purpose of preventing voter fraud. However, News21 published an analysis that narrowed the likelihood of voter fraud at the voting booths to about one in every 15 million prospective voters.
Sam Robinson, a student in the criminology master’s program at the University of Pennsylvania, inadvertently found a way around Pennsylvania’s newly imposed laws.
“I’ve chosen to vote absentee to ensure my vote counts in Michigan,” he said.
Julie Gibson, another student in Robinson’s program at UPenn, also made the decision to vote as an absentee prior to the voter ID laws, mostly for the convenience factor.
Both Robinson and Gibson have witnessed efforts around campus to ensure that students are registered to vote. However, the dialogue on registering to vote does not always include voter ID laws.
“Honestly, I don’t think many people are aware of the laws on campus, or at least I haven’t heard anyone talking about it here,” said Gibson.
The issue of voter ID laws may not feel relevant at UPenn, whose student IDs are in compliance with the state’s provisions, but it hits close to home as upward of 758,000 Pennsylvanians could find themselves incapable of voting, as reported by Huffington Post.
To Robinson, statistics such as this are troublesome in light of the timing of the upcoming election.
“The fact that these laws are just now being brought up with so much cross-party dissent leaves a very poor taste in my mouth about the fairness of our electoral process,” he said. “I have a hard time believing that lawmakers have no idea how much pressure this puts on the population of the city that uses mass transit to get around and never even contemplated needing a state ID.”
If you are unsure as to whether your student ID will grant you access to the voting booths in your college’s state, refer to The Cost of Freedom Project, which details the contingencies for voting in each of the 50 states. It also provides advice on how a person lacking the proper materials to vote can obtain valid ID between now and Election Day.