Colleges comply to Voter ID law

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One of the many issues arising from the new requirements of Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law is that, to be valid, photo IDs issued by colleges and universities now like state-issued drivers licenses must be current or expired less than one year.

According to an April survey issued by the consumer advocacy group PennPIRG, 91 out of 110 colleges and universities in the state did not have photo IDs that comply with the new law. It found most colleges and universities across the state did not print expiration dates on their IDs for students, faculty or staff.

Ellen Kaplan, vice president and policy director for the Committee of Seventy, said for those students, staff and faculty at large universities that is not a problem as most have current driver’s licenses. Those who do not drive, like those attending commuter or community colleges, however, will find themselves in the same boat as an estimated 900,000 residents who do not have an ID that allows them to vote on Nov. 5.

Kaplan said multiple groups across the state are tackling the issues.

“No one anticipated this level of non-valid college and university IDs,” she said. “But they are responding to the issue.”

Most of Pittsburgh’s universities, however, were already in compliance. Carnegie Mellon, Chatham, Carlow and the University of Pittsburgh all have expiration dates printed on their student, faculty and staff IDs.

When asked, Pitt Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Robert Hill, looked at his and joked that it said, “I will be employed at least through 2016.”

Additionally, the report indicated that LaRoche College in the North Hills, is addressing the issue by affixing stickers with an expiration date to its student IDs. The Community College of Allegheny County, which was listed as noncompliant, is doing the same.

Ken Miller, a voter advocate for the Black Political Empowerment Project and the Thomas Merton Center, said CCAC has responded to a request to address this issue from the NAACP state office.

“Thanks to the insistence of the NAACP, the college has responded by putting expiration stickers on student IDs,” he said. “But we have no confirmation that other community colleges have done so. They may have, but none I’m aware of is currently tracking that.”

Duquesne University has issued new cards with expiration dates, to any students without another valid photo ID, and according to PennPIRG, Point Park University has also issued new photo IDs with expiration dates.

In response to the April report, all Penn State campuses are issuing IDs with printed expiration dates to new students and giving stickers to returning students. Robert Morris University’s IDs also lacked expiration dates, but the school is taking the same action.

Celeste Taylor, B-PEP voter advocate, welcomed the cooperation response from the educational institutions, but said she will continue to make sure all those who need a proper ID, including veterans, seniors and students have one.  She said those with questions about proper identification should contact the PA Voter Hotline at 1-866-687-8683.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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