Students in Idaho are suing the state to overturn a new law that removed student ID cards as an acceptable form of voter identification at polling places.
The Idaho chapter of March for Our Lives and a 17-year-old student, Rosaura Albizo Barron, filed a lawsuit Friday seeking to have the law, HB 124, thrown out on constitutional grounds. Their complaint alleges that HB 124 “violates the Twenty-Sixth Amendment [to the U.S. Constitution] because it was motivated by a discriminatory purpose.”
“Many students such as myself rely on our student IDs for transportation, accessibility, and identification,” said Barron, in a press release. “This bill not only threatens our constitutional right to vote, but the only legitimacy we have. Speaking out on behalf of myself and students like me is an act of vulnerability, but I feel that it’s so important to advocate for my community and protect our voice and our basic human rights.”
Republican Gov. Brad Little signed HB 124 into law on Wednesday. The legislation amends Idaho’s voter ID law to remove “a current student identification card” from the list of personal identification that voters are required to show at their polling place before they cast a ballot. Other acceptable forms of ID include an Idaho driver’s license, a passport or state-issued ID card with a photograph, a tribal identification card, or a concealed carry weapons license.
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Attorneys representing the students argue HB 124 discriminates against young people. “It was adopted in response to an unprecedented wave of political activism by young Idahoans, alongside other measures like restrictions on legislative testimony by young people that represent a clear backlash to that activism,” the complaint states. “It surgically targets young Idahoans and makes it harder for them to vote, because they are by far more likely to have student identification, and to lack other accepted forms of voter identification, than older voters.”
They also contend the law is a solution in search of a problem, writing, “the acceptance of student identification has not caused a single documented problem in the thirteen years since Idaho began requiring voter identification.”
According to the lawsuit, “the number of 18- and 19-year-olds registered to vote in Idaho increased 81% between 2018 and 2022, the largest such increase nationwide by far.” Turnout of young voters has also seen gains, with 48% of eligible 18- to 29-year-old voters casting ballots in 2020 — a 10-point increase from 2016, when just 38% of voters in that age range turned out. The complaint also points to increasing political activism by young people, including March for Our Lives’ campaigns for gun control, as evidence that HB 124 is meant to discriminate against or politically punish young activists.
“In recent years, Idaho has enjoyed an unprecedented wave of youth political activism,” said attorney Elizabeth Frost, who is representing the plaintiffs. “Inspiring young leaders from across the Gem State have made their voices heard on important issues like gun violence, climate change, and reproductive health. Rather than engage with this growing youth activism, Idaho’s existing political power has tried to suppress it.
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“For over a decade, high school and college students have been able to use their student identification card to verify their identity at polling places, a practice that has not caused a single documented problem,” Frost added.
Republican lawmakers who supported HB 124 characterized the legislation as an election integrity measure.
“The problem with them is there is no uniformity,” bill co-sponsor state Sen. Scott Herndon, R-Sagle, said during floor debate. Herndon said only 104 people used student IDS to vote in the November 2022 election and argued the standard to obtain a student ID is lower than other forms of identification. State records show that more than 599,000 Idahoans voted in that election, according to the Idaho Capital Sun.
“The reason that we, again, want to get rid of the student ID is because we can not have as much assurance through that method of identification that the voter standing at the poll to vote is who they say they are,” Herndon insisted.
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In January, Republican state Rep. Tina Lambert raised concerns that students from neighboring Washington state or Oregon may vote by mail in their states and then “come over here with their student ID and vote in person and then fill out their ballot in another state, thereby voting twice.”
Voting in multiple states is illegal in Idaho and a violation of federal election laws.
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Activists from March for Our Lives accused GOP lawmakers of attempting to suppress their votes.
“HB 124 hinders many young people from casting their vote and being a part of the fight to end gun violence in America. Gen Z has grown up in a world where senseless gun violence is the norm, so we want to make sure we are able to vote and make our voices heard on these important issues,” said Lucy Glynn, incoming director of MFOL Idaho.
Also on Friday, the League of Women Voters, Idaho and BABE vote filed a separate lawsuit to stop Idaho from enforcing HB 124.
“Republican-controlled legislatures across the country have used the false specter of voter fraud to make it harder for young people to vote,” their complaint alleges.
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