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Babe Vote, March for Our Lives Idaho file suit over law eliminating student IDs for voting

College of Idaho student Saumya Sarin, center, and other Babe Vote volunteers spoke in opposition to a new law eliminating the use of student IDs for voting during a March 17 news conference at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise.  (Clark Corbin/Idaho Capital Sun)
By Clark Corbin Idaho Capital Sun

Two different organizations representing young people in Idaho announced they have filed lawsuits challenging a new law that Gov. Brad Little recently signed that eliminates student IDs as an acceptable form of identification for voting.

Members of the organizations Babe Vote and March for Our Lives Idaho announced Friday they filed suits challenging House Bill 124, which Little signed into law Wednesday.

Rosaura Albizo Barron, a Boise High School student, is a plaintiff in the March for Our Lives Idaho lawsuit, and the League of Women Voters of Idaho also signed on as a co-plaintiff in the Babe Vote lawsuit, according to news releases and legal filings issued by both organizations.

House Bill 124 removes student IDs from the list of identification documents that are accepted to verify a voter’s identity. Before Little signed the law, current student IDs that include a photograph and were issued by an Idaho high school, college, university or technical school were accepted at the polls.

Now, the list of acceptable forms of identification is limited to an Idaho driver’s license or identification card issued by the Idaho Transportation Department, a U.S. passport or photo ID issued by the U.S. government, a tribal photo ID card and a license to carry concealed weapons or an enhanced license to carry concealed weapons.

Idaho students push back against voting restrictions

“Our elections in Idaho are safe and secure, and appropriate safeguards are already in place,” College of Idaho student Saumya Sarin said during a Friday news conference with Babe Vote student leaders and volunteers at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise.

“Idaho should be focused on increasing voter turnout, especially among groups that have traditionally voted in lower numbers, like young people,” Sarin added. “We should not be making it harder for eligible voters to cast their ballots. It is unacceptable if one eligible voter is prevented from exercising his or her constitutional right to vote.”

Sen. Scott Herndon, the Sagle Republican who sponsored House Bill 124 in the Idaho Senate, described his bill as an election integrity bill that was designed to prevent voter fraud.

“The reason that we, again, want to get rid of the student ID is because we can not have as much assurance through that method of identification that the voter standing at the poll to vote is who they say they are,” Herndon said during his March 9 floor debate in favor of passing the bill.

The March for Our Lives Idaho lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court, alleges that the law eliminating student IDs for voting violates the U.S. Constitution’s 26th Amendment because it is discriminatory. The lawsuit also alleges the law is designed to make it harder for a specific group of people – young people – to exercise their right to vote.

“Rather than engaging with this growing youth activism, Idaho’s existing political power has responded by trying to suppress it,” the lawsuit alleges.

Barron, the Boise High student who is a plaintiff in the March for Our Lives Idaho suit, agreed.

“Many students such as myself rely on our student IDs for transportation, accessibility and identification,” Barron said in a written statement. “This bill not only threatens our constitutional right to vote, but the only legitimacy we have. Speaking out on behalf of myself and students like me is an act of vulnerability, but I feel that it’s so important to advocate for my community and protect our voice and our basic human rights.”

During Friday’s news conference, Babe Vote student leaders said House Bill 124 represents a new obstacle for young people to vote and will make it difficult to register and get young people involved in government and civics.

“There is no need for House Bill 124, and the Legislature knows it,” Sarin said during Friday’s news conference.

The law eliminating student IDs for voting was written so it would take effect July 1, 2024. That means none of the changes will affect this year’s elections, regardless of what happens with the lawsuits and legal challenges. If the student ID law survives legal challenges, it would be in place for the November 2024 presidential election.

Babe Vote started as a slogan on a sign at the 2018 Idaho Women’s March and evolved into a nonprofit organization of student volunteers who focus on registering and informing young voters and then getting them to turn out to the polls. Several Boise and Treasure Valley area students who are involved with Babe Vote testified in opposition to House Bill 124 this session and spoke out against restrictions on minors testifying in certain legislative committees, which House Judiciary Rules and Administration Committee Chairman Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, revised after students spoke out.

March for Our Lives Idaho is part of a larger national group of young people who mobilized around the country to end gun violence in the wake of a 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Idaho Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Idaho Capital Sun maintains editorial independence.