Student Government seeks UT System support for voter ID efforts

Eleanor Dearman

Student Government is continuing its effort to make University IDs an acceptable form of voter identification for federal, state and local elections.

SG representatives submitted an issue brief to the UT System Board of Regents concerning their resolution, voicing student support for University IDs as voter identification in May, according to Chris Jordan, SG chief of staff. Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, UT System’s executive director of public affairs, said the brief was received by the University System and approved as legislative priority at the University.

The brief was not sent for regent approval, but, rather, to inform the system that University IDs used as voter identification is something UT-Austin students are in favor of. 

“The Office of Governmental Relations essentially signed off on it and said they favored UT-Austin making it a legislative priority if they chose to do so, which I believe they have,” LaCoste-Caputo said.

LaCoste-Caputo said the regents have seen the brief but did not comment on it.

According to Jordan, SG normally does not share their resolutions with the System. SG President Kori Rady, who proposed the idea when running for his current position, said this policy could apply to other UT campuses, making it necessary to inform
the System. 

“I think any legislation that can apply to multiple-system schools — the Board of Regents and System have interests in,” Rady said.

Even though the issue brief has been sent to the System, Jordan said SG will work on lobbying the Texas Legislature to discuss the issue. Jordan said the timeline for this project is unknown because it is such a big task to take on.

“We can go ahead and begin talking to members of the legislature about this issue and seeing what the possibilities are, whether or not the regents approve of this, or not,” Jordan said.

In order to see this resolution through, SG members working on the project must find legislative sponsors to write a bill proposing a change in the current law. Jordan said the process starts with SG members forming relationships with state legislators.

“It’s not something you can ask on the first meeting, so it’s really important to have those relationships before we move forward with this in order for it to be successful,” Jordan said.

Currently, public university IDs are considered state-issued IDs, but they are not considered voter IDs. Jordan said that SG members must work out details on how to change the IDs, so they can function for voting. 

Historically in Texas, state officials have been against student IDs as voter identification — as seen in the debates over the topic when passing Senate Bill 14 in 2011, government lecturer James Henson said.

“The fact that state-issued universities IDs were not on the list of allowed voting identifications when the bill was written was controversial at the time,” Henson said. “Many Democrats wanted that, and it was left out of the bill.”

Henson said he thinks it is unlikely the state legislature will open up this issue again in its current political state.

Jordan said SG members are more optimistic than they were in May, now that they have University and student support. Jordan also said that representatives in the Office of Governmental Relations at UT, who have been serving as advisers on the resolution, told him there are legislators interested in hearing the proposal.

“There are people at all levels who are interested in seeing this to completion,” Jordan said.