This November should be an exciting time on Pennsylvania college campuses. Students across the state, many for the first time, will cast a vote in the presidential election. Unfortunately, many Pennsylvania students will be kept out of our political process. Some will not bother to go to the polls because they lack any of the recently specified forms of required photo identification; others will be turned away because they are unaware of the state’s new law. This is because of Pennsylvania’s new, complex voter ID law that puts strict requirements on which student IDs are acceptable for voting. Several student IDs issued by Pennsylvania colleges and universities currently do not comply with the new voter ID law. The few types of identification cards that will be acceptable in Pennsylvania for the November election include U.S. military IDs; employee photo IDs issued by federal or Pennsylvania state, county or municipal governments; photo ID cards issued by a Pennsylvania care facility; photo IDs issued by the U.S. Federal Government or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or photo ID cards from an accredited Pennsylvania public or private institution of higher learning.
The vast majority of students in Pennsylvania universities do not have the first three IDs. Also, tens of thousands of students who will wish to vote in Pennsylvania will not have a Pennsylvania driver’s license; Pennsylvania has more out-of-state freshmen at their schools than any other state. Some native Pennsylvania students will not have a driver’s license or identification card. In fact, in 2010 the number of 20 to 34-year-olds without a driver’s license reached 15.7 percent and is increasing. That percentage is even higher for people aged 19 and younger. This means that a student ID will be the last fallback for many young people in need of a voter ID.
The law becomes much more problematic for students because it requires a student ID to have a photo and an expiration date. Few student IDs meet these requirements. A recent study by PennPIRG suggests that 85% of students in Pennsylvania go to schools without acceptable IDs for voting. A survey that is underway of 186 colleges and universities by the ACLU, Advancement Project, Fair Elections Legal Network, PennPIRG, and Rock the Vote also indicates that most schools’ IDs are not (and will not be made to be) acceptable before the November 2012 election. Therefore, at many Pennsylvania schools the last lifeline for students to dodge this suppressive law is cut.