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 Student ID 
 as Voter ID  

Students face unique barriers to voting. One such barrier is the requirement to bring an accepted form of identification to cast a ballot.[1] Voter ID laws vary state by state, ranging from no voter ID requirement to strict photo ID requirements that only include certain types of ID that meet specific criteria. Some of these states accept student IDs issued by colleges and universities; others do not.

 

[1] Some voter ID laws also apply to absentee voting but this brief focuses on in-person voting requirements.

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36 states currently have some form of in-person voter ID law in place, but the list of acceptable IDs varies substantially from state to state. 

Some states have expansive lists including both photo and non-photo forms of ID, with many of these states offering an alternative procedure to presenting ID at the polls. The remaining 14 states and the District of Columbia do not require an ID to vote. Only 12 states do not allow the use of some student IDs as voter ID. [2]

 

[2] North Carolina adopted a strict voter ID law with a convoluted process for colleges and universities to continually apply to the state for their student IDs to be accepted as voter ID. This law was struck down by the North Carolina State Supreme Court, however upon  rehearing the case in 2023 the Court  reversed itself and reinstated the voter ID law.

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19 of the 35 voter ID states permit voters without ID to sign a personal identification affidavit, cast a provisional ballot which will be counted if the signature matches the registration database, or otherwise authorize alternative verification of the voter’s identity. 

They include: Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa,  Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire,[3] Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia. Some states have expansive lists including both photo and non-photo forms of ID and only five of these do not allow the use of at least some student IDs as voter ID, Alaska, Delaware, Idaho,[4] Iowa, and Missouri. The remaining 13 states and the District of Columbia do not require presenting an ID to vote.

[3] New Hampshire allows both college and high school student ID cards, but starting with the November 2018 midterm elections, the state will require that these IDs be issued or expired no more than five years before the election.

 

[4] Idaho adopted HB 124 in March 2023 removing student IDs as voter ID, after 13 years of accepting them without any proof of voter fraud. A federal  lawsuit challenging the change is pending. The law went into effect on January 1st, 2024.

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That leaves 17 “strict voter ID” states, meaning states that will reject a ballot if the voter cannot present an accepted form of ID. 6 strict voter ID states, Arizona, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas do not accept student ID cards.

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There is a bit of variation between the ID laws on this list. North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas’s laws are all strict photo ID requirements.[5] However, Arizona’s law allows the voter to present two forms of non-photo ID with a name and address in lieu of one form of photo ID. 

[5] Due to litigation, Texas’s voter ID law has gone through several iterations. The statute currently in force, which was passed in response to prolonged litigation, requires photo ID from a limited list but allows voters who have none of these to show other forms of ID, including some non-photo IDs, and use a reasonable impediment affidavit to give a reason why they don’t have a photo ID.  South Carolina and Nebraska also provides an alternative to voters who attest to facing a “reasonable impediment” in obtaining a voter ID.  However, because these exemptions are not available to all voters, the standard is ambiguous, and in Texas voters using the affidavit must still show non-photo ID, we have classified these states as strict voter ID states.

Student ID Map
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The other 11 strict voter ID states accept student IDs but there is variation in what kinds of student IDs are acceptable and what information the student ID must contain in order for it to be used as voter ID.  

 

Georgia, Indiana, and Wyoming only accept state university and college ID cards, and Indiana’s public institutions’ IDs must contain expiration dates. While Kentucky technically accepts public and private institutions’ IDs, the state’s voter ID law requires IDs to contain a signature, so it is unclear how many student IDs actually qualify. Wisconsin accepts student ID cards from public and private schools as long as the ID contains a name, photo, signature, issuance date, and expiration date that is not more than two years after the issuance date and is presented with proof of current enrollment such as a tuition fee receipt or an enrollment verification letter. A number of Wisconsin colleges and universities have updated their IDs to contain these elements or will issue a compliant ID upon request, but others have not taken these steps.  

Wisconsin used to have the most convoluted process for which student IDs could be used as voter ID until the North Carolina Supreme Court, after a change in composition, reversed itself and allowed a strict voter ID law and the country's most cumbersome student ID as voter ID statute to take effect. The North Carolina voter ID law requires each individual public, private college or university and each individual community college in the state to submit an application for approval of their institutions student ID as voter voter ID attesting to a number of factors around the process used to obtain photos and produce IDs as well as “complies with any other reasonable security measures determined by the State Board to be necessary for the protection and security of the student identification process.”[6]  Additionally, each round of approval is only good for one federal election cycle, an odd number and the following even year, so each individual institution must resubmit their an application for approval each federal election. Additionally, there is a parallel process for state employee IDs to be approved for use as voter ID which public universities and community colleges can submit to for their staff IDs.     

 

The remaining five states – Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, and Mississippi – accept public and private college and university student IDs.[7]

 

Student IDs are given to nearly every college student after providing proof of their identity upon enrollment. They are convenient and secure options that should be acceptable voter ID. Since that is not the case in every state, it is critical for students to understand what forms of identification they can use at the polls so they are not turned away or forced to take extra steps to cast a ballot that counts.

[6] N.C.G.S.A. § 163-166.17. See also https://www.ncsbe.gov/voting/voter-id/student-and-public-employee-ids-approved-voting and https://www.ncsbe.gov/news/press-releases/2024/03/28/last-call-applications-approval-student-and-employee-ids-voting

 

​[7] It should be noted that federal law requires voters who are registering for the first time and mailing in that registration form to present ID at the polls if they fail to provide or if the state cannot match their in-state driver’s license or ID number or the last 4 digits of their Social Security Number. A very few states in some situations require this or similar ID of first-time voters who registered by mail regardless of whether the state can match the voter to another database. Please consult your local elections official, and Fair Elections Center and Campus Vote Project’s guides.

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