Purdue to Modify Student ID Cards to Address Voter ID Concerns

[Image via WBAA]

Purdue University will add expiration dates to student IDs to address concerns about compliance with Indiana voter ID requirements. Back in May, I wrote about a growing controversy between voting activists and Tippecanoe County, IN’s new clerk after she suggested acceptance of the IDs violated state law – and this change is intended to eliminate that issue. The Journal&Courier has more:

At a time when new questions surface about whether Purdue University student identification cards meet Indiana’s voter ID standards to vote, the university announced Tuesday that it plans to start issuing ID cards that one Tippecanoe County election official said would go a long way to settling concerns about potential election violations.

Whether the new Purdue IDs will fix the issue before November’s municipal elections – and stave off accusations of voter suppression in the process – was a question still in play and likely to come to a head during a Tippecanoe County Election Board meeting later this week.

The new ID cards, which will be available starting in August, would include an expiration date set six years from the day a card is issued. That was a bit of information, required in the state’s voter ID law, not printed on Purdue student IDs in the past.

Tim Riley, Purdue’s bursar, said the university’s student IDs were due for an overhaul. The cards are primarily used “for daily campus uses,” he said, including checking out books from libraries, opening secured doors or paying for meals.

“We are not in the voter identification business, but if we can help make voting more convenient for students, we want to do so, and the design parameters of the new card appear to check all the necessary boxes for a valid voter identification,” Riley said.

The County had accepted Purdue IDs as is for a while until the new clerk raised the expiration date issue:

Since 2008, when Indiana’s voter ID law went into effect, Tippecanoe County election officials have worked with the university to make sure Purdue students could use their IDs when voting, just as students at Indiana University, Ball State and a handful of other state schools are allowed to do. The Tippecanoe County Election Board ruled that using Purdue records to check that students using a university ID were currently enrolled met state voter ID requirements.

In May, though, Julie Roush – a Republican elected as Tippecanoe County’s clerk in 2018 – raised doubts about whether Tippecanoe County’s arrangement with Purdue met the letter of state law.

During an election board meeting in May, Roush told board members that conversations with state officials gave her pause. She said she’d started investigating, including calls to the Indiana Secretary of State’s election division, because she couldn’t find a written policy in the county’s vote center plan about how to handle Purdue IDs.

Indiana’s voter ID law states that a student ID from a state school in Indiana may be used if it meets requirements for other forms of ID acceptable at the polls. That means it must include four things: a photo, a name, an expiration date that shows it is current and be issued by the state of Indiana or the U.S. government. In most cases, a driver’s license, passport, state-issued ID through the BMV or military identification are used.

At the time, Roush suggested that continuing to allow Purdue IDs, as they had been traditionally printed, could bring a felony charge against local election officials.

On Tuesday morning, Roush said she was grateful that Purdue was working with the county on a solution.

“That’s what we were waiting for, is a new Purdue ID,” Roush said. “We’re not going to have an issue once everyone at Purdue has one of those new IDs.”

Not all Purdue students will get the revised IDs right away, however, which could create problems for students seeking to vote this year – and the County is discussing how to respond:

Riley said that while the new IDs will be ready in August, this year’s freshman class had identification cards made in June. So, the first mass issue of the new Purdue IDs to an incoming class won’t happen until fall 2020.

Purdue students will be allowed to trade their current IDs for an updated one for $10, according to the university.

What will Tippecanoe County do about students looking to use old Purdue IDs for upcoming elections in 2019 and 2020? Roush said that would be discussed during a Tippecanoe County Election Board meeting Thursday.

Part of the problem is that there is not clear guidance from the state on implementation of the voter ID law:

Indiana voter law says students are residents of their campus communities and are entitled to vote where they go to school, if they meet the citizenship, age and residency requirements. Once registered at their school address, they are not allowed to be registered in their home counties. Using a university-issued ID means they don’t have to update driver’s licenses every time they move during a college career, just so they can vote.

Valerie Warycha, a Secretary of State spokeswoman, told the J&C in May that the state office had issued no new guidance regarding valid IDs for voting, other than to say that an ID has to include an expiration date. Warycha said the Secretary of State’s office “is not the enforcer of the law” and that it was “up to the county Election Board or a court to decide if the law has been violated.”

Roush said Tuesday that she was hoping to get a legal opinion from the Secretary of State’s office before the Election Board had to make a decision about current forms of Purdue IDs.

Student leaders looking ahead to the fall’s local elections say the issue needs to be addressed soon:

Emily Jones is student director of Purdue Votes Coalition, a campus organization made up of several student groups and university departments. The group, billing itself as nonpartisan, conducts voter registration drives on campus and does other things to make students aware of elections – “whether they’re voting here or at home,” Jones said.

Jones said that settling the voter ID question was pressing, given the November 2019 municipal elections, particularly in West Lafayette. One West Lafayette City Council district is nearly all residence halls and Purdue’s 43,411 students in the 2018-19 school year were scattered across the city. Roughly a third of Purdue’s undergraduate students are out-of-state students.

“There are so many things the city does that affect lives of students – tenants’ rights, parking, policing, State Street development, you can go on,” said Jones, a senior from Mulberry. “The truth is, we want to invest in this city for the four years we’re here. We’re invested in the community, not just campus.”

Jones said members of Purdue Votes Coalition planned to be at Thursday’s Election Board meeting to [state] their case…

“I don’t think there are any ulterior motives, and I think it all comes from a place of honest concern,” Jones said. “But I think it was kind of blown out of proportion. I hope we can show to the election board that this has worked for nearly a decade. … Even if we can’t do that, we want to work with them to make it as accessible to students as possible, whatever the election board decides.”

As I noted back in May, this discussion is important because it addresses on-the-ground implementation of voter ID – not whether ID should required, but if a given ID will work at a given polling place in a given election. It’s good to see Purdue making moves to eliminate question in the long run, but how short-term transitional challenges are addressed will have a big impact on student voting this fall. Stay tuned …

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