University of Iowa student IDs not valid for polls

While Iowa State University students will be allowed to use their student IDs to vote in the next election, the University of Iowa still has not created that option for its students.

Kelsey Harrell, News Reporter

State Board of Regent universities are taking divergent paths on making student ID cards a valid form of voter identification.

Iowa State University announced recently that its students will be able to use their student IDs as voter identification at the polls during the next election, an action that University of Iowa administrators are still discussing after a state-law change affecting requirements for identification voters can bring to the polls to prove their eligibility to vote.

While the University of Iowa has worked to make voting more accessible to students, officials are still working on a solution related to card identification, UI media-relations manager Hayley Bruce said in an email to The Daily Iowan.

“We are in touch with our colleagues at Iowa State University and the Johnson County Auditor’s office and plan to learn more about whether this would be a good fit for our campus and county,” Bruce said.

In 2017, the Iowa Legislature passed an Election Modernization and Integrity Act, which added a requirement for voters to bring IDs to the polls. 

The Iowa Secretary of State’s Office sent letters to universities and colleges across the state in 2018, making two requests of the institutions: to provide students with a form of ID that could be verified and a printable document for students to prove their address. 

Related: Why your student ID can’t be used at the polls

Last year, the UI Office of the Registrar created a voter-enrollment verification letter, and UI Housing and Dining added contract dates to room-assignment letters as proof of residency in an effort to make voting accessible to students, Bruce said. 

Because the student IDs do not have an expiration date on them, they cannot be accepted as valid identification at the polls under the new law. State university officials have previously stated the addition of an expiration date to the cards would be too expensive. 

With approximately 44,000 IowaOne cards in circulation, UI officials said previously to the DI  that the additional costs of reprinting IDs would be hundreds of thousands of dollars extra each year. 

UI Student Government Director of Governmental Relations Connor Wooff said conversations with UI administrators are being revisited by UISG, University Democrats, and WRACtavists regarding the addition of expiration dates, now that ISU has done so.

Although UI College Republicans have not been involved in that conversation, the organization’s president Joshua Werges said in an email to the DI, he added that they feel the expiration date is the only thing stopping university ID cards from being used at the polls.

He said the College Republicans support the Iowa Secretary of State’s program that issues free state-sponsored voter ID cards that can be used at the polls to Iowa residents who apply for one.

The inability of UI students to use their university IDs at the polls can cause issues related to a student’s residency, University Democrats member Shayna Jaskolka said, because many students come from another state but vote in Iowa.

“It can get complicated sometimes, because you’re registered to vote in one state but your license says another [state],” Jaskolka said. “And it can just be confusing, especially if it’s your first time voting.”

Wooff, also a University Democrats member, said the group began prioritizing efforts to register students to vote last year and increased engagement and outreach efforts before the midterm elections when they determined the UI could not add expiration dates to IDs beforehand.

“I think [the UI] recognizes that if another state university is doing it, there’s no reason that we can’t commit to it as well,” Wooff said.