The Politics of Voter ID Laws

by Chris Hennen March 25th, 2015 | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Cover by Ashley Freed and Raul Gomez

After a 2014 election that featured controversial difficulties for student voters due to the state’s new Voter ID law, it appears the North Dakota Legislature won’t be making any changes during the ongoing legislative session.This is despite a North Dakota State University study that found 689 college students were unable to vote because of residency issues.

The only pending changes to the law are contained in House Bill 1333, which was passed by the House and is awaiting a vote in the Senate. The bill would invalidate student housing certificates as proof of voter residency -- a change Democrats vigorously oppose. But it would allow nursing home certificates to be used as proof of residency, as well as utility bills or any type of bill showing a voter’s address as long as it’s older than 30 days and accompanied by a valid North Dakota ID. This would affect people who didn’t have time to change their ID but moved within the state. Anyone who moved here from out of state would still be unable to vote until they acquire proof of residency. HB 1333 is expected to pass the Senate.

“By removing the student housing certificate, you have guaranteed one thing: that you will never have to worry about someone not using the student housing certificate right,” said Rep. Corey Mock (D-Grand Forks). You’ve also guaranteed that unless the student goes through the process of obtaining a current North Dakota ID or they have a North Dakota ID from an existing address and utility bill, they won’t be able to vote, and right or wrong, that’s the change. I think it’s going to continue to add confusion.”

A bill that passed the Senate unanimously this session, Senate Bill 2330, would have would have required colleges and universities to add a student’s date of birth and residential address to the student ID and made it an acceptable form of identification for voting. It was defeated handily in the House because of concerns about costs and privacy. It was backed by student groups but opposed by university administrators.

“That would have been, at minimum, a good solution if for nothing else for the next couple of years while we review the election laws,” Mock said. “If we are going to require that you have a form of ID, we do need to respect and appreciate all of the complex living arrangements for all of North Dakota’s residents. We do so with nursing home residents.”

The study on student voting habits was conducted by the Upper Midwest Regional Center on Public Policy at NDSU. It was a web survey of 1,800 students that found the highest percentage of residency voting issues from the 2014 election occurred with those who attended Bismarck State College, NDSU and UND.

“We found that of the people we contacted a little over 3.2 percent of respondents tried to vote and they were unable to do so because they had confusion with the new residency requirements,” said Nick Bauroth, an NDSU political science professor. “Other people…

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