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Tippecanoe County Clerk Gets Pushback On Purdue ID Validity Question

courtesy Purdue University

The Tippecanoe County Election Board and Clerk Julie Roush have met stiff opposition upon beginning a conversation about whether Purdue University ID cards will continue to be considered valid voter IDs in future elections.

At an election board meeting Friday, the chair of the county Democratic Party, an official from the League of Women Voters, the Democratic co-chair of the county’s Election Division and a Purdue official all questioned why Roush was thinking about making a change.

The discussion comes about because Purdue IDs do not currently have an expiration date printed on them. Though this has long been the case, County Clerk Julie Roush and Election Board Chairman Randy Vonderheide say they worry letting voters continue to use them – as the county has done for many years – puts election officials at risk of committing voter fraud.

County Democratic Party Chairwoman Heather Maddox took issue with that rationale.

“While I accept that maybe that’s something that we don’t want to do anymore, maybe that we need to find another solution, that’s fine," Maddox says. "But to say that it was voter fraud or something that wasn’t talked about before and ruled on is just simply not correct.”

Melissa Gruver, a Purdue employee who helps on a project encouraging students to vote, says expiration data is built into the cards and a list of current students long been accessible by poll workers.

“Because a Purdue ID has a swipe access, it is embedded in the ID – student data is embedded in the ID," Gruver says. "And then the public data of their enrollment in the institution is what is available to you for that cross-checking.”

And Ken Jones, the Voter Services Chair for the League of Women Voters of Greater Lafayette, read from the state voter identification statuteto suggest that might be enough.

“It says ‘the document shows the name of the individual’ – seems clear," Jones says. ‘The document shows a photograph of the individual.’ ‘The document includes…’ Why did they not say ‘shows,’ why did they say ‘includes’?”

County Election Division co-chair Brian Mangus, a Democrat, also sparred with Vonderheide about how the issue came up at all.

“To just, all of a sudden, make a decision by one person rather than the group, I feel like we are disenfranchising those voters in 2020," Mangus said.

"I will suggest there is not a decision being made. We’re giving the world notice that this is being looked at," Vonderheide responded.

Roush says that’s not how the discussion has proceeded.

“I know this wants to be…make this out into something else – that I’m running off on my own," she says. "I tell you, if we wait for every time that we have a meeting, we’re not going to get much done.”

It’s unclear whether the local rules will change in advance of November’s municipal elections.