Pa. colleges scramble to make school IDs voter-acceptable

Posted: June 23, 2012

For college students attending one of the 14 schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, the opportunity to vote Nov. 6 comes down to a sticker.

Efforts to update student identification cards to meet new Pennsylvania voting regulations are under way on campuses, system spokesman Kenn Marshall said Thursday.

In April, the legislature passed a bill requiring voters to show photo identification with an expiration date before casting a ballot.

The bill has received criticism for its changing definitions of acceptable IDs and for making it more difficult for people to vote.

Secretary of State Carol Aichele announced in April that the photo-ID process would be simplified by allowing voters to use expired state driver's licenses or nondriver ID cards to obtain a free photo ID from the state Department of Transportation.

For students who do not have a state driver's license, the school ID is their access to a voting booth, and the majority of Pennsylvania student IDs do not meet the new requirement.

Out of 110 Pennsylvania colleges and universities surveyed in April by the consumer group PennPIRG, 15 printed IDs with expiration dates.

None of the State System schools, which enroll 120,000 students collectively, included expiration dates. Those schools are: Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, and West Chester Universities.

State System school presidents began considering ways to update IDs shortly after the bill was passed, Marshall said. Updates for identification cards will vary by campus, although the majority are choosing to update by including a sticker with an expiration date, Marshall said.

Cost for adding the sticker will be minimal, especially compared with reissuing a student ID, Marshall said.

There is otherwise little reason for colleges to include an expiration date on student IDs, given degree programs that vary in length, and students who opt to transfer. The cards are also electronic, meaning they can be turned on or off at any time and can hold within themselves information such as birth date and expected graduation year.

"If there's an expiration date on it," Marshall said, "the only reason it's there is for voter ID."

The University of Pennsylvania has expiration dates on its IDs, but Temple and Pennsylvania State Universities do not, though PSU will issue cards with expiration dates to new students this fall and will provide stickers for returning students' IDs. Temple will begin issuing new student IDs with expiration dates this summer.

The Pennsylvania State Conference of the NAACP met Monday with system chancellor John C. Cavanaugh to hear about the new ID program.

John W. Jordan, director of civic engagement for the NAACP state chapter, said he hoped other Pennsylvania schools would follow its lead.

For now, the state NAACP chapter is working to see that eligible voters have the proper IDs to vote, but the ultimate goal, Jordan said, is to see the bill overturned.

"We feel this law was passed as a direct attack on voting rights," he said.

In May, the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, and others filed suit in Commonwealth Court challenging the bill. The lawsuit will be heard July 25 in Harrisburg.


Contact Dara McBride at 215-854-4909 or dmcbride@philly.com.

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