In College? Want to Vote? Check the Voter ID Laws

Recent Changes Could Keep You From Casting a Ballot

Written by Lia Collen on March 10, 2016


National Popular Vote

Emma Tupp, an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, was excited to cast her ballot in Massachusetts’ primary election on Super Tuesday. She figured she could go to her polling place and get back to campus well before class. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way.

Tupp first went to the polling location assigned to her current address. But once she arrived, a poll worker told her she wasn’t on the voter roll. They sent her to a different polling location, 20 minutes away, which matched her previous address; she had no record there either.

Tupp finally discovered that the problem was with the address on her voter registration form. She had moved from the dorm where she resided when she registered to vote and was never informed that she needed to update her address on her voter registration form.

“The poll workers were very patient in explaining the situation to me,” Tupp said. “They helped me fill out the form changing my address and re-registering me, but if I was in a big rush, I definitely would not have had the time to do all this.”

The process was particularly difficult for Tupp because she had no ID with her current address. While she lives in and attends school in Massachusetts, her ID is from her permanent residence in Maryland.

“When I told them this new address, but my license said I’m from Maryland, it was especially tough to re-register and prove that I am who I say I am,” Tupp said. “I wish I had been informed before voting that I needed to change my address even if I lived in the same town.”

Tupp is among thousands of students who face challenges when voting. Other states that voted on Super Tuesday – such as Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, and Texas – have photo ID requirements more restrictive than the law in Massachusetts. The laws have all been passed within the last five years.

Texas, which considers a concealed-carry handgun license proper ID, does not recognize student ID cards issued by a university as an acceptable form of identification; neither does Georgia. Since the photo ID laws in these states are relatively new, voters should make sure they have appropriate ID before going to the polls. To check your state’s voter ID laws, visit the National Conference of State Legislatures.  

Super Tuesday and other primary elections can be used as test cases for ID requirements for the general election. Voters should learn voting requirements, including acceptable forms of ID and polling locations, and how to update their voter registration forms if necessary. Common Cause encourages voters to participate in the important upcoming elections and make sure that they are fully prepared to vote in November.

For any questions about registration or voting, contact the Election Protection online at http://www.866ourvote.org/ or at their hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

Office: Common Cause Massachusetts, Common Cause National

Issues: Voting and Elections

Tags: Registration and Voting Systems

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