By Priya Jandu/Arizona Sonora News
Arizona students might soon be turned away at polling stations if they show up with their student IDs.
A bill introduced by Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, would not allow high school, college or university ID cards to be an acceptable form of identification when voting in Arizona.
Townsend declined to comment on the bill.
Arizona’s Secretary of State website states that voters have the option at the polls to show either one form of photo ID with a full name and address, two forms of ID without photographs but with matching names and addresses, or a combination of the two options if the address on the photo ID is incorrect.
A representative of the College Republicans United from Arizona State University said the bill could be a way to combat voter fraud.
“High school, college, or university IDs are given to anyone regardless of their immigration status,” said the group’s president, Julie Houtman, in email. “Requiring strict government-issued IDs for citizens, as a prerequisite to vote, is a small safeguard for our election integrity.”
Northern Arizona University’s Young Democrats President Callie Jones said she doesn’t think students committing voter fraud is a problem in Arizona.
“Students are not trying to actively fraud the United States government when they cast their vote,” Jones said.
J.D. Scott, vice president of financial affairs for Mesa Community College’s student government, also does not think voter fraud is a severe problem in Arizona.
“Trying to solve a problem that doesn’t currently exist in high enough numbers should not be prioritized over attempting to make the lives of citizens more convenient,” Scott said.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, examined voter fraud in the United States and found only five instances in Arizona; the most recent confirmed case was in 2012. The number of ballots cast in 2012 was over 2.3 million, according to Arizona’s Secretary of State site.
Jones said voting will be more difficult for students if the bill becomes law.
“Voting already takes a huge time tax for students, and now on top of that, you want them to go and make sure they have an ID that fits your standards even though they have to prove certain types of citizenship to get their ID’s originally?” Jones said. “It’s very short-sighted.”
The law for obtaining a ballot in Arizona currently does not explicitly prohibit the use of student ID’s as a valid form of identification.
Scott said most student IDs are not a usable form of identification at the polls, because they typically lack addresses.
“They don’t currently have addresses on them, which wouldn’t be usable as it stands right now,” Scott said. “They still couldn’t be used but this precludes any colleges or schools from being able to assist their students and be able to vote by adding an address in the future onto their cards, which would then make them eligible and that would be extremely helpful for school students to be able to use a school ID.”
Jones said she was not surprised to learn about the bill, but she hopes it does not have the momentum to pass. If the bill does gain traction, Jones, along with the Young Democrats, will make sure NAU students are made aware of the bill and which politicians support it.
“I think I can speak to a bigger picture — not just NAU’s campus — because I think that people are so scared to expand the electorate that they would rather suppress our vote than hear what the majority of students have to say, and I think this is just one way of them doing that,” she said.
Emily Kirkland, executive director of Progress Now Arizona, pointed out that the bill also removes utility bills, bank statements, vehicle registration from the list of acceptable identification at the polls in Arizona.
“Voter ID laws are a form of voter suppression,” Kirkland said about the bill. “They discriminate against seniors, students, minorities who are less likely to have identification.”
Kirkland said this is not the first bill she’s seen from the Legislature attempting voter suppression.
“We see the discriminatory impact of these kinds of laws, and as an organization, we are determined to fight against all forms of voter suppression and ensure that everyone is able to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” Kirkland said.
House bill 2043 has not been scheduled for a first reading as of Jan. 24.
A senior in the University of Arizona School of Journalism, Priya Jandu is the 2020 Don Bolles Fellow. She is assigned to cover the Arizona Legislature full time, and her stories appear on the Arizona Sonora News site for use by news organizations around the state, as part of the UA’s land grant mission. Please let us know when you use one Priya’s stories: firstname.lastname@example.org.