While Student Government members hope to make student ID cards an eligible form of voter identification, some students have raised concerns about what this would mean for undocumented students.
Adam Sacks, a College of Natural Sciences representative, said he is concerned that if student ID cards become a valid form of voter ID, the cards might visibly show the students’ citizenship status.
“I want to be sure there would be nothing that can incriminate the undocumented students on our campus,” Sacks said.
SG President Kori Rady said he hopes the necessary information would all be stored inside the IDs, so if a student were undocumented, it would not be visible on the card.
“We wouldn’t alienate anyone through this entire process,” Rady said. “From our initial understanding, [student ID cards] wouldn’t look any different from the way they do now.”
Bradley Englert, chief information officer of Information Technology Services, said if legislators were to amend the voter ID law to allow this, which would be necessary in order to make any changes to the current voter ID system, a student’s date of birth would have to be added to the ID.
“Some people might not be comfortable with that,” Englert said. “Some of our students aren’t U.S. citizens, so we’d also have to figure out how to convey that.”
On Tuesday, the SG Assembly unanimously passed resolution AR 6: In Support of Student Identification Cards from Institutes of Higher Education Meeting Voter Requirements in the State of Texas.
Some acceptable forms of voter identification in Texas include a Texas driver’s license, a U.S. passport, a U.S. citizenship certificate or a concealed handgun license. Currently, student ID cards are not an eligible form of voter identification in Texas.
Chris Jordan, SG chief of staff and author of the legislation, said the current voter ID system contributes to low student turnout in elections.
“Not having a stable form of ID for students who are out of state and don’t live in the Austin area, it’s really hard for them to be adequately represented,” Jordan said. “I think this is something that’s not only incredibly tangible but also incredibly helpful.”
Jordan said he has received support from administrators and students and would continue researching states with strict laws like Texas that allow the use of college IDs.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 34 states have passed laws requiring voters to show some form of identification at polls, and the remaining 19 states use other methods to verify a voter’s identity.
Virginia will implement new voter ID laws in July that will make a student ID issued by any institute of higher learning in the state an acceptable form of identification. Thirteen states currently allow voters to use a student ID card issued by a school within the state, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“Texas is really unique that this law is so strict,” Jordan said.