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ND college student group speaks out against voter ID bill

BISMARCK - A representative of the North Dakota Student Association spoke against a bill that would tweak the state's voter identification law Thursday.

BISMARCK – A representative of the North Dakota Student Association spoke against a bill that would tweak the state’s voter identification law Thursday.

Kelsey Klein, governmental relations director for the group, told the House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee that House Bill 1333 could disenfranchise many student voters, especially those from out of the state. The bill would eliminate the option of student identification certificates that were provided by the university system.

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Randy Boehning, R-Fargo, would allow a bill, bank statement or U.S. Postal Service change of address form to prove residency if a voter’s ID hadn’t been updated. It would also clarify acceptable forms of voter identification.

Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo, took issue with the argument that students would be “disenfranchised” by the legislation.

“To me, disenfranchisement is if you don’t give somebody the opportunity,” he said during the hearing. “If we’ve provided them the opportunity to get a North Dakota driver’s license ... and if we do our best to inform them, could you really say that they’re disenfranchised?”


Klein responded that she felt many students, including herself, weren’t adequately educated about voter identification requirements during the most recent election. Specifically, she said she wasn’t aware her ID had to be updated 30 days in advance.

Rep. Mary Schneider, D-Fargo, said she wasn’t convinced the proposed bill wouldn’t make it harder for students to vote.

“If they’re living in a dorm, they wouldn’t necessarily change their bank account, they wouldn’t necessarily have a bill that’s sent to the dorm,” she said. “And yet they live there and consider that their residence.”

Jim Silrum, the deputy secretary of state, said he believed the proposed change would make it easier for students. He said farmers may have a farm home and another in town, but they have to choose which one will be considered their residence.

“The same is going to be true under this bill for students,” he said. “If they grew up in Bismarck, but they’re going to school in Fargo, through a few quick mouse clicks ... for no cost a student is able to update their state-issued ID.”

Chris McEwen, the student member of the State Board of Higher Education, also expressed concern with the bill.

Boehning’s bill is one of several introduced this session dealing with the state’s voter ID laws after an election that saw some report having trouble at the polls. A staff member from the North Dakota Association of Counties said Thursday a survey of 25 county auditors found there were around 1,200 voters in those counties who were turned away from the polls in the November election because of improper ID.

“It was no secret that there were more voters turned away in the last election than in the past because they didn’t meet the requirements set forth by the Secretary of State’s office,” said Donnell Preskey Hushka, government and public relations specialist for the group. In most cases, people failed to update their driver’s license 30 days before the election, she said.


Preskey Huska said it was “obvious that tweaks were needed” after the last election.

The committee didn’t take any action on Boehning’s bill after a hearing that lasted about two and a half hours.

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