Students’ identities questioned at polling locations
- Nov. 6, 2012
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For some students, it may be easier to get into a bar underage than it was to vote on Election Day.
After Kansas joined the 33 states in the nation to pass voter ID laws, senior Vanessa Phillips, from Wichita, remembered her driver’s license when she showed up to the polls. But when she tried to get her ballot, she was told she didn’t look enough like her picture.
“My picture looks exactly like me,” Phillips said. “I was wearing a bow in my driver’s license picture and I was even wearing a bow on Election Day.”
To prove her identity, Phillips provided a second form of identification.
“I was just so frustrated. I threw down my KU student ID and asked, ‘Is this enough?’” she said.
There were 221 incidents of voter fraud reported in Kansas from 1997 to 2010, and voter IDs are strictly regulated. However, fake ID usage is common, and many Lawrence bars only require one form of identification for entry.
Brittany Bezler, a sophomore from Kansas City, had a similar problem. Her looks had changed since she’d gotten her driver’s license at the age of 16. A poll worker scrutinized her ID for several minutes until giving Bezler her ballot, but after she cast her vote, the poll worker asked to look at her ID once more.
“It made me feel like a criminal. Everyone else passed right through the line, and I was held up,” said Bezler, “I’m 20 years old. Why would I lie to vote?”
It is illegal to intentionally vote under a false identification. The 2011 Kansas voting law, which requires registered voters to show photographic identification, aims to combat voter fraud. Critics of the law claim it disenfranchises certain groups of voters. Attorney Rich Benson, who helped address reports of possible voter suppression on Election Day, said young voters are likely to be hurt by the law.
“It’s a student issue because young people change so much at this point in their lives, from their appearance to their address,” he said.
Even though she was inconvenienced, Bezler said she is still glad she got the chance to vote.
“It was my first presidential election,” she said. “Nothing can take that feeling away.”