New PA voter ID law to affect students in November elections

By Sara Blair Matthews
Assistant News Editor

Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law requires voters, beginning in November of this year, to present a photo ID with an expiration date every time they vote. Pennsylvania driver’s licenses, a U.S. passport, a U.S. military ID or a photo ID from an accredited Pennsylvania public or private college will be accepted.

This could be problematic for University students without a Pennsylvania driver’s license or passport, as the University does not have any immediate plans to add an expiration date to its ID cards.

“I think that the new law has the potential to decrease campus voter participation significantly … [Out-of-state college] students will not be able to register and vote at Bucknell as things currently stand—despite the fact that the law still otherwise permits them to do so,” said associate professor of political science Scott Meinke.

Many students have demonstrated concern that the University will not give students enough advance notice before ballots are cast in November.

“It should be stressed well in advance of the election that BUIDs won’t be accepted, to make sure no one who wants to vote is disenfranchised,” Wade Payson-Denney ’13 said.

Talk over this new law has brought up the larger issue of the importance of voting for young people.

“I do believe it is important for students to vote. We are fortunate to live in a country where we can openly express our political perspectives. Voting is one the best ways to express one’s political views. We are given the chance to play an active role in how our government operates. Not all people around the world can say that,” Tim Bolte ’12 said.

Another student expressed similar views.

“If you vote once, you are more likely to vote again. Voting will push people to start paying attention to the news, and it will push people to care about the issues they are voting for. Later in life when you start paying the bills you will start caring about these things, so you might as well start caring about them now,” Josh Wilson ’15 said.

Meinke believes that the young voter turnout has much room for growth. He said although many college-aged Americans are politically engaged, the youngest segment of the electorate participates at the lowest rate. Even in 2008, when the youth vote increased substantially, college-aged voters turned out at a lower rate than older voters.

“One potential consequence of this imbalance is that elected officials may pay disproportionately more attention to the particular interests of older Americans who vote more,” Meinke said.

In order to improve University students’ voter participation, Bolte belives there should be more open political discussion among students.

“There have been recent cases (the shut down of the affirmative action bake sale and the halting of Obama health care dollars distribution) where the University has actively sought to suppress political speech on campus. The University should encourage the spread of political ideas among its students, not suppress them,” Bolte said.

“I think the most effective way for Bucknell to gather more student voters would be for student groups such as the College Democrats or the Bucknell Conservatives Club to orchestrate voter registration drives,” Payson-Denney said.

When asked what a good resource was for gaining knowledge about a candidate’s platforms, Meinke pointed out that the websites of major newspapers usually have detailed candidate profiles and issue information that can be very helpful. For those who are interested in digging even deeper, Project Vote Smart gives non-partisan issue information on both incumbent and challenger candidates.

“[I think it’s important to stress] that you don’t have to be a political science major in order to be interested in politics. In theory, a democracy won’t function if there are too many people who don’t care about its issues,” Wilson said.

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