Voter ID Laws, Registration Challenges Create Hurdles For College Students Ahead Of Election

A display of a sample of a new Penn State ID card, now including an expiration date in the upper left-hand corner to comply w
A display of a sample of a new Penn State ID card, now including an expiration date in the upper left-hand corner to comply with the Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law, as seen at the school's Hetzel Union Building in State College, Pa., Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012. Standing in the background is Secretary of Commonwealth Carol Aichele, whose department is responsible for implementing the tough new guidelines even while the law is under scrutiny in court. (AP Photo/Genaro C. Armas)

College students who want to vote in the state where they go to school have some hurdles to jump.

In Minnesota, for example, a proposed Voter Restriction Constitutional Amendment on the state's November ballot would require a valid state photo ID to vote.

Under the law, students in the University of Minnesota system would be able to vote with their U-Cards, issued by the school at voting booths on campus, according to the Twin Cities Daily Planet. However, the same is not true for students at private colleges in the state; they would be required to seek an ID from the Department of Vehicle Services stations.

At Minnesota private schools like the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University or Concordia University, the 17 to 28 percent of students who come from out of state would find it harder to vote in local and federal elections in Minnesota. At the Minneapolis College of Art and Design the 42 percent out-of-state students would also need a Minnesota ID to vote.

Because an out-of-state ID is accepted for nearly everything else a student does -- driving; buying cigarettes, alcohol or lotto tickets; proof of age to enter nightclubs -- many out-of-state students in Minnesota and elsewhere do not bother getting a new one for the state where they attend college.

“My personal thinking is that [voter ID amendment] will restrict the ability of our students to vote," Macalester College Card Services Manager Onenee Saloka told the Daily Planet of the Minnesota proposal. "We use a similar process that U-M uses. It would be a disservice to our students if they are not able to use their ID cards as valid for voting."

Students affected by the Minnesota amendment could still vote in their home states, but they wouldn't be able to vote where they attend school and live much of the time without getting a new ID.

Similar measures targeting college students are playing out in other states, including Tennessee, Wisconsin, Florida and Pennsylvania, as HuffPost's Dan Froomkin reported in September.

Pennsylvania's controversial voter ID law was blocked by a judge earlier this month. But before the decision, some universities began altering or issuing new IDs to allow students to use a college ID as voter ID. Still, replacing cards for every student to match the state's voter ID requirements would be a significant expenditure, officials said.

Proponents of the voter ID laws, like New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O'Brien, a Republican, told the Associated Press allowing out-of-state students to vote creates two classes of voters: "all of us who reside in New Hampshire and those residents of other states who choose to vote here because we are a battleground state." It took the ruling of a superior court judge to ensure out-of-state students the right to vote in New Hampshire.

Even in states without strict voter ID laws, college students are being challenged.

A right-wing group in Ohio called the Ohio Voter Integrity Project attempted to challenge the voter eligibility of hundreds of college students there. The Columbus Dispatch reports many of those targeted were Ohio State University students, whom the group claimed should be removed from the rolls "because they did not provide address details such as apartment or dorm room numbers."

"This election is something I hold very dear to me,” Emma Gibson, an OSU student, told the Dispatch. "It was a little terrifying to think I might not be able to participate."

For more information on measures which may affect students in your state, visit the Brennan Center for Justice's voter guide.



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