Are Idaho students’ voting rights being restricted?

Taya Thornton | The Arbiter

In the spring of 2022, a bill was brought to the Idaho House floor proposing the removal of student identification cards as a valid form of identification for voting. The bill died in committee meetings and did not pass to the Senate. 

A year later, shortly after the 67th legislative session’s start, House Bill 124 was brought to the House State Affairs Committee by State Rep. and bill sponsor Tina Lambert.

However, unlike the former bill, it did not die in the committee. The bill passed Feb. 20, 2023, in the House with 59 yays, 11 nays and zero absent, prohibiting the use of a student identification card in Idaho elections. The bill is set to move to the Senate for voting.  

“There is a lack of uniformity in the sophistication of student ID cards,” Rep. Tina Lambert writes in the bill’s statement of purpose. “Statewide, only 104 voters who voted at the 2022 General Election used a student ID card to vote, which was the second least utilized form of personal identification.”

A student’s information put on an ID card varies between universities. Boise State’s card includes the individual’s  name, a photo, student number, and expiration date of the card. 

“My constituents are concerned that students, maybe from a state like Washington or Oregon where they vote by mail, may come over here with their student ID and vote in-person and then fill out their ballot in another state, thereby voting twice,” said Rep. Lambert at the House State Affairs Committee meeting Jan. 31, 2023.

[Photo of the Idaho Capitol Building.]
Taya Thornton | The Arbiter

ASBSU responded to last year’s similar bill with a resolution saying that the student government of Boise State did not agree or support the bill, according to ASBSU Government Relations Officer and political science major Jackson Berg. 

Closely following the bill and its impact on students, ASBSU has decided not to respond with a resolution in this legislative session.

“It is a tough bill to get around, because it does in fact restrict student voting,” Berg said.

Current valid forms of identification at the polls include an Idaho driver’s license, passport, tribal identification card or license to carry concealed weapons, according to Idaho’s constitution.

As of today, valid forms of student identification include an Idaho university-issued ID, or even a high school ID card. 

The bill’s passing raises the question at the Capitol and on Boise State’s campus: Do out-of-state students understand where and how they can vote as a student in Idaho?

“I think it is partly student government and partly the university’s responsibility to educate students on getting out and voting,“ Berg said. “If people aren’t educated on where they can vote or if they are registered to vote, then they won’t get out to do it.”

At Boise State’s “register to vote day” this past fall, 21 students registered to vote, all using a driver’s license as their form of identification, according to Berg. 

With the passing of this bill, students wanting to exercise their right to vote in Idaho must now bring a state issued ID to identify themselves at the polls.

“Some students I have talked with find it weird that they cannot vote in a state they do not live in full-time (where they are registered). So, this will allow students to understand what voting is and how important it is,” said ASBSU Out-Of-State Representative and freshman political science major Max Harris in an interview with The Arbiter. Students wanting to learn more about where and how they can vote, can visit the Secretary of State’s website.

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