Four Texas legislators push to make student ID acceptable as voter ID

Four Texas lawmakers are making voter turnout among college students a priority by proposing bills that would make university-issued ID cards an acceptable form of voter ID.

The bills, filed in both the House and Senate by Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg), Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin), Sen. Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio) and Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin), would allow students to present a university-issued photo ID as a valid form of  voter ID. 

Watson said his bill, if passed, would make voting more convenient for students.

“Those in control of the Capitol have created unnecessary burdens for folks who don’t already have an acceptable form of ID to vote,” Watson said in an email to the Texan. “This is an easy way to begin removing those burdens.” 

In May, Student Government sent a formal letter in support of student IDs as a valid form of voter ID to the UT System Board of Regents. The System approved the letter as a legislative priority for the University. Chris Jordan, SG chief of staff, authored the letter and said he is excited to see support for this initiative in the legislature. 

“We’re not the first ones to say this is an issue,” Jordan said. “But we’re just glad to get the conversation started.”

In October, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Texas’ voter ID law, which requires voters have a state-issued photo ID to vote. Texas is one of seven states that requires voters to present photo IDs before casting a ballot. Other states request ID but do not require it, and 20 states do not require any ID.

Under the current voter ID law, there are seven acceptable forms of voter ID in Texas, including a Texas driver’s license and a concealed handgun license. Canales said most states that require voter ID also allow student IDs as a form of voter identification.

“Basically, this would be pushing conformity with the other voter ID states,” Canales said.

Israel said expanding voter ID to include student IDs is a secure and efficient way to increase voter turnout among college students. 

“Those who suggest that this is another opportunity for fraud are incorrect,” Israel said. “All the information that we give to the county is double checked, and there has to be a reassurance there, as we move through this process, that this is simply about creating more opportunities to vote.”

History senior Max Patterson, director of SG’s Hook the Vote agency, said the use of student IDs as voter IDs would make voting easier for out-of-state students.

“For out-of-state students, if they don’t get an election ID certificate or aren’t in the process of getting a new drivers license, they have to use their passport, which can be difficult if they don’t already have their passport at UT,” Patterson said.

Canales said he hopes the ability to use university-issued IDs as voter IDs will encourage college students to vote regularly.

“I think that if we do make it readily accessible through their student ID, we definitely are not exasperating the problem,” Canales said. “We are actually creating more avenues for college-age students to vote.”

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