BOISE, Idaho — A college ID can get you into a lot of places around Idaho. Maybe into a football or basketball game on campus, onto a city bus, even a discount at some local restaurants.
What it won't get you, if a proposed piece of legislation passes this year's legislative session, is into a voting booth.
In recent years, Idaho republicans have been outspoken about concerns with what kind of ID's are used at the polls. They also want to do away with an Idaho mechanism that allows voting without an ID.
Here is the pitch on Monday morning from Caldwell Rep. Tina Lambert.
“All it does is remove the student ID as a valid form of ID at the polls. My constituents are concerned that students may be from a state like Washington or Oregon where they vote by mail, may come over here with their student I.D. and vote in person and then fill out their ballot from another state and thereby voting twice,” Lambert said in committee. “This RS also removes the option to sign an affidavit if the voter forgets to bring their ID to the polls."
Under current Idaho law, registered voters can use a current student ID from an Idaho high school or post-secondary school as their photo ID to vote. This law would change that.
Also of note, a student ID from a post-secondary school in Idaho can also allow someone to register to vote.
But aren't out of state college students supposed to get an Idaho license when they move here?
Well actually, the Idaho Transportation Department clarifies: “Students attending an Idaho college or university and members of the military on active duty and dependents do not need to apply for an Idaho driver's license if they have a valid out-of-state license.”
But how many voters are even using student ID compared to drivers license?
KTVB checked in with Secretary of State Phil McGrane for insight.
"In the last election in November, 98.6% of voters showed a driver's license. It's overwhelmingly the ID that people use as they default to their driver's license. And that's what we're seeing. And to my surprise, the student I.D. was actually one of the least common ID used. So the data we have covers about half of the state in terms of the total number of registered voters and there were only 92 voters who used a student I.D. on one of the electronic pollbooks during this last election," McGrane said.
In Nov. 2022 63 of those student ID voters were in Ada County, so you can connect the dots there on the proximity to Boise State.
Still though, percentage wise that is not a ton out of the 600,000 voters.
On a similar note, Secretary McGrane and his office is also working on new legislation on the voter registration end.
He shares this first look at a new program that would get state ID's to college students.
"I think that's going to be important in this, not just because it focuses on what ID someone can use to register to vote, which strangely enough, is different than what this bill is doing. But also a part of that bill is we include a free ID card from the state for anyone who needs one for the purposes of voting. It's something we've been working with it in terms of ironing out the language and what the process would be."
Also, he said that the office is going to be proactive in terms of letting people know about how they can obtain one of those IDs if they need one.
"We want to make sure they have the tools to be able to do that. And I think that will actually help address some of the concerns as it relates to this legislation," McGrane explained.
How to get back to voting at the polls without an ID.
In Idaho a registered voter without a photo ID can sign an affidavit basically saying they are who they swear they are. It is a felony to lie on that affidavit. That document is controversial, and a number of law makers have tried to alter or get rid of it. So how many people use those in Idaho?
McGrane said, not many.
"Statewide what we saw in November is roughly 1500 of the personal ID affidavit, so certainly more widely used than the student IDs. But when you consider that 600,000 people voted in this last election, it's really important that we put these conversations in context. I do know there's been a lot of conversations regarding the affidavits, and I've met with numerous legislators, some who, from the sounds of it like this, want to get rid of the affidavit. Others we've proposed ideas and ways we can strengthen the security of the affidavits by adding additional information that has to be validated before a voter can vote. I do support trying to tighten it up right now. The process in terms of us looking backwards after someone has voted isn't as robust as it could or should be. And so we're trying to work and figure out what the best policy approach is related to the affidavits," McGrane said.
Idahoans can check out the new voter ID proposal now, Secretary McGrane expects his registration legislation to be prepared in the coming weeks.
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