Idaho Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Student IDs for Voting

The Supreme Court of Idaho upheld recent legislative amendments to the state’s voter identification requirements.

The Supreme Court of Idaho on Thursday, April 11, upheld recent legislative amendments to the state’s voter identification requirements, affirming a lower court’s ruling in favor of the Idaho Secretary of State, Phil McGrane, which eliminated the use of student IDs for voter registration and in-person voting.

The unanimous ruling came in light of the suit filed by two voter advocacy groups last year, claiming two pieces of legislation disproportionately affected young and out-of-state college voters, infringing upon their right to vote and violating equal protection under the Idaho Constitution.

The opinion of the court said, in part, “we conclude House Bills 124 and 340 are reasonable exercises of the legislature’s authority to enact conditions on the right of suffrage under Article VI, section 4 of the Idaho Constitution.”

The Bills and Legal Arguments

House Bill 124 removed student IDs as acceptable proof of identity at polling places, while House Bill 340 revised the identification needed for voter registration, eliminating the option to use the last four digits of a social security number.

Instead, voters must now present a current Idaho driver’s license, a U.S. passport, a tribal identification card, or a concealed weapon license.

In their lawsuit, BABE VOTE and the League of Women Voters, the two voter advocacy groups, claimed these changes would unduly burden young voters and out-of-state students in Idaho, constituting an unequal and heightened burden on their fundamental right to vote.

Justice Robyn Brody, writing for the court, detailed that while voting is a fundamental right protected by the Idaho Constitution, the legislature is granted authority to prescribe reasonable qualifications and conditions on voter registration and voting.

Related Stories

Idaho Removes Student IDs From List of Acceptable Voter Identification
Idaho Urges US Supreme Court to Deny Federal Abortion Claim

The court held that the changes enacted by House Bills 124 and 340 did not infringe upon the constitutional rights to vote and were appropriately within the legislature’s scope to ensure the integrity and efficiency of elections.

In part, the court also found the groups’ arguments for lack of standing as un-persuasive when reviewing it with a strict lens, but said with a lenient view the groups did have standing.

“While it may be an inconvenience for Plaintiffs, having to ’re-educate‘ voters and volunteers about changes in the law is not the ’concrete and demonstrable’ injury,” Justice Brody wrote. “Indeed, the mission of these organizations is voter education. We agree with the Secretary that educating voters about the need to produce identification at the polls is not a new harm; it is part of the organizations’ mission; thus, it is not a sufficient basis to invoke organizational standing.”

The court, when applying a rational basis review, the most lenient standard of judicial scrutiny, concluded that the legislative amendments were “rationally related to legitimate government interests” such as maintaining election integrity and updating voter identification processes to reflect current standards.

Reaction to the Decision

The decision has been met with mixed reactions. Supporters of the bills argue that the updated laws strengthen the security and reliability of Idaho’s electoral process. Critics, however, maintain that the laws could suppress voter turnout among young and transient populations, particularly affecting students.

“We are pleased to see that the Idaho Supreme Court recognizes the importance of voting and that access to voting and the security of our elections are not competing objectives,” Mr. McGrane said in a post on X. “Voters can have confidence in Idaho’s elections.”

The plaintiffs argued that they did not get their day in court and that “justice has been denied” following the court’s ruling.

“Citizens’ right to vote is fundamental to our democratic republic,” the groups said in a statement posted to X. “This legislature has tried virtually everything in its power to prevent young, disabled, homebound, and working class Idahoans from exercising that right. Since these laws were enacted, BABE VOTE and the League of Women Voters of Idaho have been unable to help approximately 20% of legally eligible Idahoans from completing their voter registrations. Today’s ruling validates this voter suppression and undermines democracy in Idaho.”

The groups went on to say that they would do “everything in [their] power” to register as many voters as possible under “difficult” and “impossible” conditions of Idaho’s voter laws.

“While the state may have won in court today, they have not won this battle,” the groups added in their statement. “Today, we are mobilizing students on high school and college campuses across Idaho and the country to register, educate, and turn out young people in record numbers, starting with the primaries this May.”

This post was originally published on this site