Purdue refuses to waive fee for new student IDs needed to vote, despite faculty pressure

Journal & Courier,  September 12, 2019

"If anyone is going to cover the costs for Purdue students to get updated IDs, valid for use at Tippecanoe County polling places, it won’t be the university.

On Monday, after news this summer that Tippecanoe County election officials no longer believed the IDs most Purdue students carry met Indiana’s voter ID law, faculty and student leaders on the West Lafayette campus pressed the university to waive $10 fees for replacements that meet state regulations for any student who wants one.

“I think this is really simple,” Jo Boileau, Purdue student body president, said ahead of a 64-3 vote in favor of the measure. “If it’s the mission of the administration to improve civic engagement among students, we need to provide them with the avenues to do so.”

The response from the university, boiled down: It’s not that simple.

“We want to point out that while the administration will take the opinions of the University Senate under advisement,” Purdue spokesman Tim Doty said, “there are a number of considerations that the Senate may not have had a chance to fully absorb.”

Among the considerations, Doty listed the potential cost to the university. He also said the University Senate’s suggestion that the university waive the fee based on a desire to have a voter ID-ready card would leave Purdue staff to sort through whether students wanted replacement cards so they could vote or whether they were just trying to avoid the penalty for losing or damaging their card.

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Besides that, Doty said: “Keep in mind a local organization is working to find a way to raise money to reimburse students which may negate the issue.”

Ken Jones, a member of the League of Women Voters of Greater Lafayette, said that was still true.

“I think the university has more complicated issues to navigate than we do,” Jones said, after initially trying to connect Purdue’s bursar’s office with donations from community members looking to cover costs for students rather than see them skip upcoming elections.

“I think we’re closer to figuring out how we can do this and get reimbursements out to students who tell us they were in a position that they needed a new ID to vote,” Jones said.

The donations – in one case, $2,000 put up by a West Lafayette couple to stir additional contributions – came after Tippecanoe County Election Board members walked back a policy that dated to 2008, the first year of Indiana’s voter ID law, that gave election officials a workaround to qualify Purdue student IDs.

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Tippecanoe County Clerk Julie Roush, elected in 2018, was accused in some quarters for trying to suppress the student vote when she first raised questions about whether that policy – poll workers checked Purdue student enrollment directories to determine if a card was still current – met the letter of the law. Her fellow Election Board members, despite living with the local policy for 11 years, questioned whether they were putting elections at risk for a practice that state election officials had called into question, once Roush asked whether it was legal.

One consideration for the local Election Board leaned on in August when rescinding the student ID was Purdue’s announcement that it planned to issue new IDs. These, Purdue said, would include expiration dates.

But the first mass issue of the IDs won’t go out, Purdue officials said, until the freshman class arrives for the fall 2020 semester. Each class that followed would get the new IDs.

Anyone else with a current Purdue ID card would have to pay a $10 fee, a discount from the usual $25 replacement fee.

Voter advocates on campus have deflected calls for out-of-state students, who by law are allowed to register to vote at their school address, to get a free, state-issued ID at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. That solution means giving up a driver’s license for the right to vote in Indiana.

Jones said that whatever solution the League of Women Voters and donors from the community find, it would need to spread out beyond city elections in November – which typically feature lighter turnouts – and into the next four years. That includes the 2020 primary and general elections, during a presidential year." 

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