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Voting bills eliminating use of student ID at Idaho polls are constitutional, judge says


Voting bills eliminating use of student ID at Idaho polls are constitutional, judge says

Oct 03, 2023 | 4:28 pm ET
By Ruth Brown
Voting bills eliminating use of student ID at Idaho polls are constitutional, judge says
A "Vote Here" sign outside O'Connor Field House in Caldwell, Idaho, on November 8, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

An Ada County judge on Monday determined that two bills passed by the Idaho Legislature to eliminate the use of student ID cards for voter registration are constitutional. 

The lawsuit filed in March by BABE VOTE and the League of Women Voters of Idaho challenged House Bills 124 and 340, which eliminated the use the student IDs for voter registration but provided for a new free form of identification. The organizations claimed it violated the constitutional right to equal protection under the law as well as the right to suffrage. 

Here’s how to get the new no-fee state ID card in Idaho

The Idaho Secretary of State’s office sought a declaratory judgment in the case, which means the case will not go to trial.  

Fourth Judicial District Judge Samuel Hoagland dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint and declared in his written judgment that HB 124 and HB 340 do not violate the equal protection clause of the Idaho Constitution.  

In the memorandum and order, Hoagland wrote “The challenged legislation places conditions on the right to suffrage rather than directly removing the ability of a particular classification to vote. While a certain classification—age— appears to be more affected than other classifications, the condition is not immediately invalidated nor does the condition make it impossible – let alone overly burdensome – for those in the classification to continue to exercise the right of suffrage. ‘Students’ are not a protected class. Moreover, not every student is a young person and not every young person (of voting age) is a student. The removal of student identification as means for registering to vote and identifying oneself at the polls, is not discriminatory and it has a clear relationship to the stated purposes of HB 124 and 340.” 

When removing the ability to use a student ID as a means of identification for voting purposes, the legislature did create a mechanism for people to obtain a free ID for voting from the Idaho Transportation Department.  

“The removal of student identification cards as permissible means of identification at the polls or for voter registration under HB 124 and HB 340 does not unduly burden voters; there are other valid and free means to identify oneself at the polls and for voter registration,” Hoagland wrote. “Students are not a protected class.” 

At the time of the bills’ passage, legislators expressed concerns about the security of student IDs because they do not always include a date of birth, proof of citizenship, or proof of address. 

“We are grateful for the successful resolution of this case. Voter registration is an important first step to being engaged in the democratic process. This legislation helped address inconsistencies in our law in an effort to build confidence in Idaho’s elections. I firmly believe that ensuring access to voting and maintaining security in elections are not conflicting goals. We have a great elections system here in Idaho and it was great to see that affirmed in this case,” said Secretary of State Phil McGrane in a press release issued Tuesday.

In a statement Tuesday evening, BABE VOTE organizers told Idaho Reports “We are of course disappointed with this result but are closely reviewing the court’s decision and will be deciding in the coming weeks whether to appeal.”