Report:

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY: COLLEGES' VOTER PROTECTION ACTIONS PREVENTING STUDENT DISENFRANCHISEMENT BY PA VOTER ID LAW

Survey of Student Voter Protection Actions by Pennsylvania Colleges and Universities
Released by: PennPIRG and Voter ID Coalition

Majority of Campuses Take Action to Prevent Voter Disenfranchisement, Offer Students Compliant IDs Under New Voter ID Law

September 19, PHILADELPHIA – A recent study released today by PennPIRG and a broad coalition of voter protection groups found that the majority of colleges contacted by the coalition have taken action to protect their students’ voting rights under Pennsylvania’s New Voter ID law.

The New Voter ID Law states that students in Pennsylvania can only use their college IDs to vote if the IDs have photos and current expiration dates.  PennPIRG’s April report found that only 15 of the 110 campuses contacted had compliant student IDs, potentially disenfranchising over half a million eligible student voters – more than 80% of college students in Pennsylvania.

This survey, which follows the April report, was conducted by a diverse coalition of voter protection groups, including PennPIRG, the ACLU, Advancement Project, Committee of Seventy, the Fair Elections Legal Network, Project H.O.M.E, the Lawyers Committee, Project Vote, and Rock the Vote.

The coalition reached out to 185 Pennsylvanian institutions of higher education to inform administrations about restrictions the law poses on students’ voting rights, and how to avoid massive student disenfranchisement.  The report found 45 campuses in the state already had compliant student IDs under the new law. 15 campuses said they have no plans to provide students with compliant IDs, resulting in 28,500 students who still cannot use their IDs at the polls.

96 schools have responded to the New Voter ID law either on their own accord or by our coalition’s outreach, and now have plans to offer expiration date stickers or new IDs to students.  Some campuses have taken extensive measures to educate their students, and we especially commend schools that have mandated and distributed new, compliant student IDs to protect the entire student body from voter disenfranchisement.

Many of these 96 schools provide students with the option of acquiring compliant new IDs or stickers, but lack sufficient plans to educate students about the opportunity, let alone the New Voter ID Law. Often, students must take their own initiative to find information about stickers or new IDs online, and print out their schedules or fill out an application before receiving the materials.  These campuses must implement more thorough plans to educate their students and engage them to receive compliant IDs.

PennPIRG and coalition members recommend these strategies to make compliant IDs more accessible and engage students to vote:

Delivering expiration date stickers directly to students.
Sending out multiple mass e-mails to the student body.
Making stickers or new IDs available to students routinely in high-traffic areas.
Circulating ID information through school-related social media networks.     

“The burden to address the Voter ID Law’s disenfranchising effects on students falls on the shoulders of higher education institutions,” said Angela Lee, state advocate for PennPIRG. “In addressing these burdens, we found the good, the bad, and the ugly.  The good news is that a vast majority of schools have taken action to provide students with valid IDs. We particularly commend campuses like Temple University and the Penn State campuses for thoroughly addressing the problem through school-wide ID replacements or expansive educational measures to best provide all students with compliant IDs.  The bad news is that many of the 96 campuses that have taken action still need to do much more than one mass e-mail to alert their students to the need and availability of new IDs or stickers.  And the ugly: 28,000 students at the 15 campuses have no access to any form of valid student IDs for voting.”

"When college students are registered to vote, they turn out. In 2008, 87 percent of college students between 18 and 24 years old that were registered to vote cast a ballot. Without action by Pennsylvania colleges and universities, many of those that want to vote will be out of luck," said Dan Vicuna, Campus Vote Project Coordinator for the Fair Elections Legal Network. "All Pennsylvania schools should issue IDs or stickers for IDs with expiration dates that comply with the voter ID law as well as educate their students on the ID they will need to vote to ensure their students are able to participate in the November election.”

Jenna DePasquale, a freshman at Temple University who will be casting her first ballot this November, said, “Driver’s licenses and state IDs cost money, but a student ID is almost always free, making it the most inclusive form of identification among young people.”  Temple is one of the few colleges that have distributed compliant replacement IDs to all students.  PennPIRG and our coalition partners urge other campuses to make process of acquiring valid IDs as easy as possible for students, and encourage the entire student body to participate in democracy and this year’s general election.

The student voice should be important in any election, and students should take advantage of these efforts to prevent their disenfranchisement by getting out to the polls this November.  “Each group of us, whether students or senior citizens, has an equal opportunity to command government attention by getting out to vote in significant numbers. Students, don't give away these rights and opportunities by not voting,” urges Stephanie Singer, the City Commissioner Chair of Philadelphia.  Students can register to vote online at studentvote.org.

Voters can access more information about the voter ID law and have questions answered by calling the Voter ID hotline (1-866-OUR-VOTE), or the Voter Registration Division Office (215-686-1500).

A full list of the schools surveyed can be downloaded above.

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PennPIRG, the Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group, is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization that takes on powerful interests on behalf of its members, working to win concrete results for our health and well-being.

1. This survey was conducted through phone interviews with school officials. Any error would stem from inaccurate reporting by school officials.

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