Though Tippecanoe County Election Board members say they’re happy Purdue University is going to modify its identification cards, members Thursday indicated some current students might still be unable to vote unless they obtain a different ID.
Local election officials have, for more than a decade, allowed Purdue IDs to be considered valid forms of photo identification under the state’s voter ID law. But Election Board member Kent Moore says state leaders have adopted a new interpretation of statute.
“Down at the state now, the state election board is aware of what we’re doing and they have offered an opinion that that is not proper,” Moore says.
Several dozen members of the public attended a Thursday meeting to encourage a different reading of the law at county polling places. Lafayette resident Brigid Manning-Hamilton questioned Clerk Julie Roush about how the discussion began. Roush says it started with a local election training official advising that Purdue students didn’t need a photo on their ID to vote.
“So a local person raised a bogus question – gave you bad information,” Manning-Hamilton said.
“He did, yes,” Roush eventually relented.
“You went and checked the information and then between you and the state, this question which had been settled for about ten years, suddenly became unsettled,” Manning-Hamilton said.
Purdue says it will give the updated ID, containing the printed expiration date, free of charge to new students. But the school will charge people with existing IDs $10 to get the new one.
A Poll Tax?
Others raised concerns the charge may constitute a poll tax.
But Moore says it’s allowable under a strict definition of the law.
“Most of us up here are lawyers. A poll tax has a definition and the fact that you have to buy an ID does not meet the definition of a poll tax,” he says.
But those cases have not weighed in, specifically, on a situation like what Purdue is proposing.
Purdue President Mitch Daniels says the school does not want to get into the business of deciding who gets to vote. He’s referred to a state law allowing anyone to get an official Indiana ID free of charge.
But commenters Thursday noted state law also says anyone with a driver’s license from another state must first surrender that to get an Indiana ID. Purdue has about 11,000 American undergraduate students from states other than Indiana who could be eligible to vote in Tippecanoe County.