Voter ID law causes confusion

With election day right around the corner, many student voters in Pennsylvania are asking what to do about voter IDs.

Last spring, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed a law requiring voters to bring valid photo ID to prove they are the voter they say they are when they are at the polls.

Valid forms of identification include valid U.S. passport; Pennsylvania photo driver’s license or non-driver photo ID; U.S. military ID (except veteran ID cards because they lack an expiration date); photo IDs issued by the U.S. federal government or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or a Pennsylvania county or municipal government; photo ID issued by a Pennsylvania care facility; or a photo ID from an accredited Pennsylvania public or private institution of higher learning.

Names are not required to exactly match the name of one’s voter registration, but must be close. All forms of ID also must include an expiration date.

And there lies the problem for Mercyhurst University students.

While Mercyhurst IDs do not have an expiration date, OneCard Office Supervisor John Patterson is working to remedy this.

Patterson has created Voter Identification Cards. These are official Mercyhurst cards with an ID created for the sole purpose of voter identification.

Thursday, Sept. 20, President Thomas Gamble, Ph.D., approved that “all currently enrolled students on any Mercyhurst campus who request a student voter identification card from the OneCard office will be given a card free of charge with no questions asked.”

Gamble explained that he approved this so any obstacles when it comes to voting can be removed.

“It is not our job to determine if someone is eligible, just to make sure they are able to vote,” said Gamble. “(Providing voter IDs) will cost us a few dollars, but I think it is money well spent.”

There has also been discussion that out-of-state students registering to vote in Pennsylvania will be negatively affected in regard to financial aid, insurance, taxes and car registration.

This is not necessarily true.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law has examined all of these issues. According to the Brennan Center, the only thing students really need to be aware of is their driver’s license and car registration.

According to the Brennan Center, “many states exempt temporary residents or students from this requirement, but registering to vote, especially in a state where voter residency requires domicile (Place to live) or something close to it, can affect this exemption.”

Pennsylvania is one of the states with the domicile requirement for those wishing to register to vote.

This doesn’t mean out-of-state students who register in Pennsylvania will be required to change their license and registration, but it is a possibility.

Federal financial aid and a student’s status as a dependent on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will not be affected.

The students who will potentially be affected are those with a private scholarship meant for people in a certain location and those with state government aid. In this case it is best to check with the distributor of the private scholarship. As for the state aid, there are only 10 states that allow a student to use aid in a different state, so only students from those 10 states would be affected.

For tax purposes, parents are still able to claim the student registered in another state as a dependent.

Health insurance is closely related. As long as students are still listed as their parents’ dependent, they are still eligible for their health insurance.

Director of Campus Ministry Greg Baker has worked hard researching the new Pennsylvania laws in order to better help students in the voting process.

Baker acknowledged the difficulties this election has presented, but said, “don’t quit on getting registered to vote.”

If you still need to register or are going to change your state registration, be sure to submit the form on time. Each state has its own deadline for voter registration forms to be submitted, but those deadlines are quickly approaching.

The deadline to register in Pennsylvania is Tuesday, Oct. 9.

For more information on the voter ID law, go to votesPA.

For information about voting, go to Rock the Vote.