Voter ID Issues: PA Institutions of Higher Learning

Specific Voter ID Issues for
Students, Faculty, Administrators and Alumni
of Accredited PA Public or Private Institutions of Higher Learning  

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A. What photo IDs will be acceptable on November 6? 

Several forms of PHOTO IDs will be accepted at the polls (See Question A. in Voter ID Issues: Voting in Person at the Polls), including a currently valid ID issued by an accredited Pennsylvania public or private institution of higher learning.

B. What do the photo IDs have to include?

To be acceptable for voting, an ID issued by an accredited Pennsylvania public or private institution of higher learning must include: (1) the voter’s name, (2) a photograph of the voter, (3) the name of the institution, and (4) an expiration date that is current (in other words, the ID cannot have expired on the date the voter is casting his/her vote).

C. What is considered a “Pennsylvania public or private institution of higher learning?”

This definition refers to accredited PA universities, colleges, seminaries, community colleges or two-year colleges.

D. What does “accredited” mean?

Accreditation refers to a review process that determines if the education provided by an educational institution meets certain standards established by Pennsylvania. For purposes of the voter ID law, only photo IDs issued by accredited PA public or private institutions of higher learning will be accepted at the  polls.

E. Can faculty members of an accredited PA institution of higher learning use that institution’s photo ID?

As long as the ID has the voter’s name, a photograph of the voter, the institution’s name and an expiration date that is current, the ID can be used not just by students, but also by faculty, administrators and alumni.

NOTE: Allegheny county has announced that Allegheny County Community Collee will issue a photo ID to any county resident -- even if the resident is not affiliated with community college -- at the beginning of October 2012. This manual will be updated with specific information about this process once details are available.

F. Can voters who attend PA institutions that are not “public or private institutions of higher learning” use that institution’s photo ID at the polls?

No. Photo IDs issued by privately licensed schools – for example, technical institutes, career institutes, massage schools, cosmetology schools, bartending schools, truck driving schools, paralegal schools and many others – will not be accepted at the polls in Pennsylvania.

G. Can voters who attend institutions of higher learning outside Pennsylvania use that institution’s photo ID at the polls?

No. Photo IDs issued by non-Pennsylvania universities, colleges, seminaries, community colleges or two-year colleges will not be accepted at the polls in Pennsylvania.

H. How can voters find out if their institutions issue a Photo ID that will be accepted at the polls?

A recent study by PennPIRG (Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group) revealed that an overwhelming majority of Pennsylvania colleges and universities (91 out of 110 surveyed) do not issue a photo ID that will be accepted at the polls. A voter can check to see where his/her institution stands by checking here: http://www.pennpirg.org/news/pap/vast-majority-pa-college-ids-not-valid-voting.

Note: Since this study was released, many PA institutions of higher learnign are either issuing new photo IDs taht comply with voter ID law -- or adding a sticker with an expiration date. Using a sticker is perfectly fine. Voters can get an update on whether his/her institution is making any changes to its photo ID by contacting Angela Lee of PennPIRG/StudentPIRG at 215-732-3747 or alee@pennpirg.org.

If no changes are planned, the voter should ask his/her institution to make a change to comply with the voter ID law. If the institution does nto have any information on how to do this, the voter should contact the Election Protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683). There are organizations within the PA Voter ID Coalition that work with PA institutions of higher learning can help.

I. What if the photo ID from an institution of higher learning does not have an expiration date?

To be accepted at the polls, the photo ID must include the date it expires – which can be a specific date in the future (e.g., 9/16/16), a school year (e.g., 2012-2013) or a semester (e.g., Fall 2012) – and that date must be current as of the date the voter is casting his/her vote. If the photo ID just has the date it was issued, it will not be accepted at the polls in Pennsylvania. 

Many institutions of higher learning are either issuing new photo IDs that comply with Pennsylvania’s voter ID law – or adding a sticker with an expiration date. Using a sticker is perfectly fine. Voters can get an update on whether his/her institution is making any changes to its photo ID by contacting Leigh-Anne Cole of PennPIRG/StudentPIRG at 617-721-2858 or lcole@studentpirgs.org. (If no changes are planned, the voter should ask his/her institution to make a change to comply with the voter ID law.)  

J. What should voters do if their institutions don’t have an acceptable photo ID?

There are other forms of acceptable photo IDs voters can use if they attend or work at PA institutions of higher learning that do not issue an acceptable photo ID, for example, if the photo ID does not have an expiration date (See Question A. in Voter ID Issues: Voting in Person at the Polls.)

If a voter does not have one of the other acceptable photo IDs, he/she can go to a PennDOT Driver’s License Center to obtain a photo ID for voting purposes free-of-charge (See Question D. in Voter ID Issues: Voting in Person at the Polls). Students who live in dorm rooms can provide proofs of residency by bringing their room assignment paperwork (considered a lease) and one bill with their dorm room address one it, for example, bank statements, pay stubs or credit card bills. 

K. What should a voter do if he/she goes to an accredited PA institution of higher learning but won’t be around to vote on November 6?

The voter can vote by absentee ballot. This is discussed in Voter ID Issues: Voting by Absentee Ballot

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