Presidential debates are purposely held on college campuses because it is well-known that college students are a large voting population who often serve as leaders when it comes to political activism and community involvement. Moreover, when students leave home to attend college, some of them want to vote in their college towns. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1979 landmark decision in Symm v. United States held that students have the constitutional right to register and vote where they attend college. However, despite the Symm’s decision and other constitutional protections, college students also have to be knowledgeable about the various state voter identification (ID) laws across the country that require voters to show some form of identification to vote at the polls on Election Day. Voter ID legislation was introduced in 32 states in 2012, and as of the November 6, 2012 Presidential Election, 30 states had voter ID laws in effect. However, various state voter ID laws were inequitable as they applied to college students. Whereas some states allowed college student IDs as acceptable forms of identification for voting, other states did not. In fact, certain state voter ID laws specifically excluded such IDs for voting purposes. In certain other states, students could use their college IDs to vote if the IDs were issued by public higher education institutions. However, students could not use their college IDs to vote if they attended private higher education institutions in the same state. This article provides a comprehensive analysis of state voter ID laws across the country as of the November 2012 Presidential Election, with an emphasis on those states that allowed college student IDs to be used for voting purposes and those states that did not. It discusses a college student’s right to vote and examines states with college student friendly voter ID laws wherein students were allowed to use their college IDs to exercise their constitutional right to vote in the November 2012 Election. Part I provides the constitutional framework and U.S. Supreme Court precedent regarding college students’ voting rights. Part II provides a brief synopsis about voter ID laws in general. Part III examines the states that did and did not allow students to use their college IDs to vote at the polls during the November 2012 Election and categorizes each state as either a “college student friendly state” or a “college student unfriendly state.” Part IV discusses the pros and cons of state photo voter ID laws, including the major arguments made for and against photo ID laws as well as the major arguments articulated by both supporters and opponents of permitting college student IDs to be utilized as acceptable forms of identification for voting at the polls. In addition, Part IV also states the major arguments made for and against allowing students to vote in their college towns. Part V discusses the inequities and the questionable constitutionality of certain state voter ID laws, including the major barriers to using college student IDs, and finds that certain state voter ID laws should be declared unconstitutional to the extent they create unnecessary burdens for college students and suppress their equal rights to vote at the polls on Election Day. Part V also includes an update regarding major litigation and changes affecting voter ID laws after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2013. Part VI concludes that states with voter ID laws should ensure that college students have easy access to the voting booths on Election Day. It also concludes that certain states should enact less restrictive requirements to their current voter ID laws to allow all college students, whether they are attending public or private higher education institutions, to use their student IDs to vote at the polls in the state where they attend college, as opposed to having to absentee vote or travel back to their home state to participate in the electoral process.
45 U. MEM. L. REV. 331 (2015)