New bill could allow student IDs at polls

A new bill in the Texas House could allow more than 600,000 Texas public university students to vote with their student identification cards, adding to the list of acceptable forms under Texas Law. 

House Bill (HB) 1950, filed by Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood), would affect nearly 39,000 college students who attend Texas State University in District 45, which recently saw voter confusion and extensive wait times during the 2018 Midterm Elections. 

Zwiener said there is conversation at the legislative level over integrity of currently acceptable forms of ID for voters, leaving her to believe student IDs need to be included on that list. 

“Most notably we’ve left out the university IDs that are issued by our state institutions,” Zwiener said. “If other forms of state ID are accepted, I have a hard time understanding why student IDs are not.”

According to the Texas Secretary of State’s office, acceptable forms of ID at the voting booth include a Texas driver’s license, Election ID, personal ID, handgun license, U.S. Citizenship Certificate with photo, U.S. Military ID and U.S. Passport. 

“Only a few of these actually prove citizenship, and frankly, none of them prove eligibility to vote,” Zwiener said. “The purpose of the photo ID is not to prove eligibility. It’s the job of the voter registrar to ensure those who are eligible to vote can vote.” 

Jennifer Anderson, Hays County elections administrator, said she has been in communication with Zwiener on the logistics of the bill. 

Anderson said the bill, if passed, shouldn’t affect the administrative operations at the office. 

“We want to ensure that eligible voters can exercise their right in an efficient manner, and any process that could make it easier for eligible voters to vote, we are in favor of,” Anderson said. 

However, Anderson said she wants to ensure the process doesn’t allow non-eligible voters to slip through the cracks.

Zwiener said she is having on-going conversations with election officials about potentially adding expiration dates, birthdays and other parameters to student IDs to alleviate some of these concerns. 

An eligible form of ID does not need to include the current address of a citizen who is voting. That information is collected by local elections officials when a citizen registers to vote. 

Once an official form of ID is checked at a polling location, the poll worker will see the address of the individual and his/her eligibility. That elections officer also has data on what precinct a voter is in, even if the address on the ID does not match the precinct. 

The elections office will still hold that responsibility, and the new bill would not change the process, Anderson said. 

The bill was co-authored by Zwiener and more than 40 other legislators, all of whom have a public universities in their districts.

Zwiener said she expects the bill to have bipartisan support and plans on receiving a signature from every Democrat in the House. 

“It’s one form of ID they will be allowed to accept and this will reduce confusion with voters at the polls, which is something we saw at Texas State,” Zwiener said. “This is about efficiency and allowing our young voters to stay engaged in the process. When young Texans engage in the electoral process, they stay engaged for the rest of their lives.”

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