Vast Majority of PA College IDs Not Valid for Voting

A recent study released today by PennPIRG and a broad coalition of voter protection groups found that Pennsylvania’s new photo ID voting law could potentially disenfranchise more than 80% of the state’s college students.

While the law states that it will allow college IDs as a valid form of voting ID, it also includes language requiring that all IDs must have expiration dates, which the study found very few colleges in the state actually print on their issued IDs.

Out of the 110 surveyed colleges and universities only 15 schools have student identification cards for all students that meet the requirements of having a photo, name and expiration date on the card [1].

The recent survey was conducted by a diverse coalition of voter protection groups in the state, including PennPIRG, the ACLU, Committee of Seventy, Project H.O.M.E, the Lawyers Committee and Project Vote.

“Voter fraud isn’t a problem in Pennsylvania: Voter engagement is,” said Alana Miller of PennPIRG. “It’s estimated that only 74% of all eligible Americans are registered to vote and in 2008, a year that saw one of the highest turnouts in recent history, only 63% cast their ballot. Lawmakers should be looking for solutions that encourage full participation in democracy, not creating laws that set up hurdles for committed voters.”

Stefano Fuchs, a junior at Muhlenberg College, a school with IDs that will not be valid for voting, said, “It’s often hard as a college student to vote because of the transient nature of our living situation. However, elected officials should be doing what they can to increase voter turn out, not stifle it.”

The state legislature did not make sufficient effort to accommodate students by including college IDs as they are issued at most schools in the state as a valid form of identification for voting.

This discrepancy between how colleges print their IDs and what the state legislature passed into law means that more than 80% of Pennsylvania’s 700,000 college students will not be able to use their college ID to vote on Election Day this fall.

Gina Shin, a student at the University of Pennsylvania stated, “While students at Penn can fortunately use their IDs, its pretty crazy that hundreds of thousands of other students across the state can’t. It seems unfair and like a step in the wrong direction”.

The IDs issued at some of the largest schools in Pennsylvania fail to meet the new requirements, including Penn State and Temple University.

Pennsylvania’s new voter photo ID law is only the most recent in a set of new ID laws that have been considered and passed throughout the country. In the past two years, the country has seen a majority of states propose at least one form of voter photo ID bill, with laws being passed in 10 states. Most voter ID laws proposed in the last two years were modeled off of a template designed by the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

A full list of the schools surveyed can be found here: http://pennpirg.org/resources/pap/survey-college-ids-pa

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PennPIRG, the Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group, is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization that takes on powerful interests on behalf of its members, working to win concrete results for our health and well-being.

1. This survey was conducted through phone interviews with school officials. Any error would stem from inaccurate reporting by school officials.

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