Since 2019, State Representative for Texas House District 45 Erin Zwiener has challenged Texas legislation in an attempt to pass a bill that allows college students to vote with their school-issued identification as well as other standard forms.
Zwiener, who represents Hays and Blanco County, has filed House Bill 118 twice and is now working to have it passed by state lawmakers for the third time. If approved, the bill will grant college students the option to vote using their student IDs, expanding the state's election code which currently bans individuals from using student identification cards to vote.
Despite two unsuccessful attempts to get the bill passed, Zwiener continues to work alongside organizations such as MOVE Texas, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that focuses on building political power for the young people of Texas. According to The Texas Politics Project, only 32.1% of voters ages 18-24 voted in the 2020 Presidential Election. Zwiener said she's not giving up on 118 and believes it's too important to let die.
"I'm going to keep filing this bill until it's passed," Zwiener said. "Young voters participating in the process is essential. When someone starts voting young they become a life-long voter."
Zwiener said school-issued IDs should be acceptable because they are also state-issued. If the bill is approved, student identification cards will suffice when voting, since they are issued from higher education institutions and include an individual's photograph, full legal name and birth date.
"A student ID from a state university is a government ID," Zwiener said. "Texas State University is a government institution ... it's as secure as other government IDs that we currently accept for voting. I have seen students ... walk away from the polls because they hadn't brought a form of ID that was accepted by the state. A lot of students don't carry around their driver's license or their passport on a day-to-day basis, they carry around their university ID."
Charlie Bonner, the communications director for MOVE Texas, said youth voter turnout is critical, and explains how MOVE Texas has been involved in the effort for student ID voting.
"We've been very involved in the fight at the Capitol over this kind of omnibus anti-voter legislation that the governor has been pushing, but also advocating for proactive policies like student voter ID, that would eliminate some of those barriers that exist to young people casting their ballot," Bonner said.
Additionally, Bonner believes lawmakers have the opportunity to make voting easier for young voters by passing this bill, but they are choosing not to.
"It's a really clear instance in our voting laws in which lawmakers have to pick and choose their voters, they decide who they make it easier for and who they make it more difficult for," Bonner said. "All of these actions are intentional."
Student Government Senator Quieraney Belvin said a bill such as this one can make voting more accessible to college students and could also have a large impact on election results.
"[The bill] would make [voting] completely easier," Belvin, a political science senior, said. "The young vote is such a huge swing vote, but sadly it doesn’t really get exercised. I think really, if we saw a huge outcome ... we would be the generation that could really make a huge difference."
If the bill is passed on its next filing, the earliest that it will go into effect is by September 2023.