Texas should make student IDs a valid form of voter identification

Sonali Muthukrishnan, Columnist

Last year’s midterm election made one thing clear: young people can mobilize and vote. The surprising number of young voters this election, especially in a state like Texas, is a refreshing break in the pattern of elections. To further increase the chance of a historic turnout, the state of Texas should make Student IDs a valid form of voter identification. 

Typically, younger people do not turn out in high numbers. Oftentimes, their lack of experience and engagement with politics are to blame.

“If you’re 18 or 19, it’s going to be your first election,” Klara Fredriksson, PhD candidate and assistant instructor at UT, said. “You just haven’t done it before, and one of the drivers of turnout is having voted before. It’s a habit that you acquire.”

Structural barriers, like voter IDs, are yet another part of the election process that discourages youth participation. While handgun licenses count as a valid form of voter ID in Texas, student identification does not. 

Approximately 12% of people aged 18-24 do not have a Driver’s License and young adults are less likely to have access to any form of photo ID. Additionally, college students can have a difficult time finding a valid form of identification for voting, a side effect of moving to a new address at the start of each school year. The fact that student IDs do not count as a valid form of voter ID is just another piece of anxiety young people may feel when heading to the polls for the first time. 

Texas is not a state with same day registration, so the seven acceptable forms of voter identification serve to verify an individual’s name on the voter rolls and nothing else. 

While using student IDs as a form of identification would ease the burden on student voters, the likelihood of the Texas legislature passing a bill in support of this measure is grim. 

“Unfortunately, due to Republican leadership in the Senate, House and the Governor’s office, it is unlikely that student IDs will be allowed as a valid form of ID for voting in the near future,” Gina Hinojosa, Texas State Representative for District 49, said in an emailed statement.

Still, many other states with strict voter ID laws like Georgia and Indiana accept student IDs as a valid form of voter identification. In the 2020 election, Georgia had a proportionately higher 18-29 year-old turn out than Texas by a gap of 10%. Texas representatives should consider a similar path. 

Ultimately, if Texas made student IDs a valid form of voter identification, it would lower barriers to voting for young people, increasing the likelihood that younger adults vote.

“I think it will be a more convenient way for people to have access to voting, and in addition to that, it’ll cause more people to want to vote because it’s easier for them to access,” neuroscience sophomore Khushi Bhakta said.

Voting is extremely important because it dictates who is represented by the government, and young people deserve to have their voices heard. 

The baseline is that representative democracies don’t represent non-voters at the same rate as voters,” Fredriksson said.

In an effort to let every young person complete their civic duty, Texas should make student IDs a valid form of voter identification. Young people have remained historically underrepresented because of their low turnout, but young Texans should have a government that advocates for them too.

Muthukrishnan is a government freshman from Los Gatos, California.