Argument Against Voter ID Seems Kind Of Insulting To College Students

voter id

Rep. Randy Boehning has introduced HB1333 which, if passed, would eliminate the use of student certificates which caused so much confusion during the last election and instead add things like bills or bank statements to serve as identification to vote.

I think Boehning’s bill goes a bit too far in allowing some of these other forms of identification (how do we know that someone presenting a bill is in fact the person named on the bill?), but the argument against the legislation coming from a representative of the state’s university systems was downright insulting to college students.

This exchange with Rep. Ben Koppleman was illuminating. Hundreds of thousands of North Dakota voters were able to abide by the requirements of the state’s voter identification laws just fine. But we’re supposed to believe those laws were too confusing for a bunch of college students?

Kelsey Klein, governmental relations director for the group, told the House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee that House Bill 1333 could disenfranchise many student voters, especially those from out of the state. The bill would eliminate the option of student identification certificates that were provided by the university system.

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Randy Boehning, R-Fargo, would allow a bill, bank statement or U.S. Postal Service change of address form to prove residency if a voter’s ID hadn’t been updated. It would also clarify acceptable forms of voter identification.

Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo, took issue with the argument that students would be “disenfranchised” by the legislation.

“To me, disenfranchisement is if you don’t give somebody the opportunity,” he said during the hearing. “If we’ve provided them the opportunity to get a North Dakota driver’s license … and if we do our best to inform them, could you really say that they’re disenfranchised?”

Klein responded that she felt many students, including herself, weren’t adequately educated about voter identification requirements during the most recent election. Specifically, she said she wasn’t aware her ID had to be updated 30 days in advance.

I tend to agree with Rep. Koppleman. The voter ID laws in 2014 were not complicated. Just a modicum of preparation allowed the vast majority of North Dakotans to vote. To the extent that there was some confusion, that has more to do with Secretary of State Al Jaeger’s administration of the law rather than any problem with the law itself.

The idea that we should change the law because some college students weren’t paying attention to what was required to vote is a bit silly. And patronizing to the point of insult to college students.

I honestly don’t think we need to change our voter ID laws at all. There are a lot of noises being made about “tweaks” being needed (thus Rep. Boehining’s bill), but I think we’d be better off leaving things as they are and instead focusing on better execution of the laws.

Plenty of people have to make decisions about where they’re going to vote. Farmers with multiple residences have to figure out which one is their official residence, and ensure that their identification reflects this.

Is it too much to expect that college students put the same level of thought into it?

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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