Getty Images

Nine students from Fisk University and Tennessee State University claim that the state is discriminating against young voters by not accepting college IDs as a form of voter identification

Taylor Lewis
Mar, 17, 2015

Fed up with restrictive voter ID laws in Tennessee, a group of college students is fighting for change. Nine students at Fisk University and Tennessee State University have filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the state's voter identification laws discriminate against college students.

Currently, students are unable to use their college IDs at the polls, even though university faculty members can. The ID restriction forces students, particularly those who are out-of-state, to apply for a state-issued identification card, a process that the lawsuit says is too complicated. The lawsuit also says that the restriction, which was implemented in 2011, is in direct violation of the 14th and 26th amendments. Since that time, The Tennessean reports, voter turnout among those in the state between 18 and 23 has dropped by more than 4 percent.

"For four years, the Tennessee General Assembly has rejected every attempt to add college student IDs to the voter ID list, systematically shutting young voters out of the political process just as they become eligible to vote," said Jon Sherman, an attorney operating on behalf of the Nashville Student Organizing Committee, to The Tennessean.

State officials argue that keeping college IDs—which are easy to duplicate—away from the polls can help workers come election day.

"More than anything, the lack of uniformity between school IDs from across the state would create a tough situation for poll workers," said Tennessee House Republican Caucus spokeswoman Cade Cothren to The Tennessean. "By allowing only government-issued photo IDs to be accepted, we can help ensure the sanctity of the ballot box."