When Gov. Tom Corbett signed a law this month requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls in order to cast their ballots, it looked like college students got a break. The voter ID law included student identification cards issued by Pennsylvania colleges on a short list of acceptable forms of identification — as long as those IDs have expiration dates. The problem is, most college IDs don’t. For Muhlenberg College student Erin Wexler, 20, that could be a problem. A sophomore, Wexler did not know about the new law, and her New Jersey driver’s license won’t cut it. Only Pennsylvania driver’s licenses qualify. “Two of my best friends are from Brooklyn,” she said. “They don’t have driver’s licenses because they don’t need them.” Voting rights advocates worry that students like Wexler and her New York friends won’t learn they can’t vote for the next president until they show up Nov. 6, because their college IDs and out-of-state driver’s licenses won’t grant them access.
In interviews this week, none of a dozen Muhlenberg students interviewed had heard of the requirement. That has college administrators from Temple University to Muhlenberg and across Pennsylvania pondering whether to issue new student ID cards for the fall semester with expiration dates to make it easier for undergraduates to vote.
Some of the state’s largest schools — including Penn State, Temple and the State System of Higher Education colleges, such as Kutztown and East Stroudsburg universities — issue student IDs that can’t be used at the polls under the new law. DeSales University and Cedar Crest and Lafayette colleges are in the same boat. State system spokesman Kenn Marshall said modern college IDs are like credit cards. For flexibility, schools simply deactivate them when students are no longer enrolled. “I guess it is because students come and go; unfortunately, some students withdraw during semesters,” he said. “They may go in the fall, or the spring. The difficulty would be what date do you put on (their IDs)?”