Idaho Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Student IDs for Voting

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a unanimous ruling issued yesterday, the Idaho Supreme Court dismissed a state-level lawsuit challenging a pair of youth voter suppression laws enacted by the Republican-controlled Legislature last year. 

The laws, which will remain in effect as a result of the ruling, eliminate the use of student IDs for voter registration and in-person voting and add onerous proof of residency requirements for new voter registrants who lack certain forms of identification. 

Yesterday’s order stems from a lawsuit filed in March 2023 by a youth voter engagement organization known as BABE VOTE and the League of Women Voters of Idaho alleging that two recently enacted statutes violated young Idahoans’ right to equal protection and right to vote under the Idaho Constitution.

As the lawsuit underscored, both of the challenged laws were enacted against the backdrop of record-high levels of youth voter participation in recent elections. According to Tufts University, Idaho has seen a 66% increase in registration for voters aged 18 and 19 between November 2018 and September 2022, by far the highest registration rate for new, young voters in the country.

One of the laws, House Bill 124, precludes the use of a student ID as an acceptable form of identification for in-person voting and limits acceptable forms of identification to the following: 

  • An Idaho driver’s license or identification card issued by the Idaho Transportation Department;
  • A passport or other U.S. government issued photo ID;
  • A tribal identification card with a photo or
  • A license to carry concealed weapons.

The lawsuit also brought claims against a separate law, House Bill 340, which imposes the same photo ID requirements for voter registration that H.B. 124 does for in-person voting, and adds proof of residency requirements for those who register using a passport or government-issued ID.  

H.B. 340 also created an option for voters to obtain a “no-fee” ID through the Idaho Department of Transportation, however the law implemented a series of restrictions on who could obtain this type of ID. As a result of new legislation enacted last month, which will go into effect beginning in July, it will be slightly easier for Idahoans to obtain a no-fee ID. The new law specifically removes H.B. 340’s previous requirement that a person must not possess a driver’s license for six months before applying for a no-fee ID.

A state court judge previously dismissed the organizations’ lawsuit last October, ruling that the removal of student ID cards as an acceptable form of voter identification “does not unduly burden voters” and that “[s]tudents are not a protected class” under the state constitution.

The groups appealed the trial court’s decision to the state Supreme Court, which affirmed the dismissal in yesterday’s decision. “[W]e conclude House Bills 124 and 340 are reasonable exercises of the legislature’s authority to enact conditions on the right of suffrage,” the unanimous opinion stated.

BABE VOTE and the League of Women Voters of Idaho said in a statement that yesterday’s ruling “validates voter suppression and undermines democracy in Idaho.” The organizations added that “[w]hile the state may have won in court today, they have not won this battle. Today, we are mobilizing students on high school and college campuses across Idaho and the country to register, educate, and turn out young people in record numbers.”

A separate lawsuit challenging H.B. 124 and H.B. 340 — brought by March for Our Lives Idaho and the Idaho Alliance for Retired Americans — remains ongoing in federal court. 

Read the opinion here.

Learn more about the case here.