Project 21 New Visions

Cherylyn Harley LeBon

IDs Needed to Take the SATs, But Not to Vote?


by Cherylyn Harley LeBon (bio)

 

While students will not always need an ID to vote in the next election, they will need one to take an admissions exam.

After a SAT cheating scandal left students in Great Neck, New York facing criminal prosecution, officials at the companies that administer college entrance exams announced strict new guidelines to verify that high school students taking the SAT and ACT in the future are who they claim to be.

New identity-conscious rules were prompted because students were caught being paid to take college admissions tests for others. The goal of the strict new ID enforcement is to make sure everyone sitting for the tests in the future are the actual people registered to take them.

Sound familiar? The testing ID requirement is similar to voter ID requirements in place or under consideration in many states. But the test ID requirement is far stricter while voter ID is more controversial.

Not to downplay the severity of cheating on a test, but there's much more at stake with voter fraud.

In many states, a college-bound student who is 18 or older can still cast a vote for president, senate, sheriff or any other elected office without providing proof of identity. In states with voter ID laws, liberals want to get rid of them. NAACP president Ben Jealous and Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, for instance, call the requirement of a photo ID at a polling place the modern equivalent of segregation-era Jim Crow laws.

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court decisively upheld Indiana's voter ID law. Liberal Justice John Paul Stevens noted in his majority opinion that the plaintiffs had "not introduced evidence of a single, individual Indiana resident who will be unable to vote as a result of the law." If any hint of Jim Crow was evident, you can bet the justices would have found it and declared the offending law unconstitutional.

The NAACP hasn't yet complained about the new testing ID rule, but it shouldn't ignore it. After all, the ACT and SAT are an integral part of the college admissions process. So no ID essentially means no access to higher education.

According to the web site of The College Board, which administers the SAT, "acceptable identification" is a valid driver's license, state-issued ID, school ID, passport or specialized school-issued identification. It's much tougher than most voter ID requirements, which can include utility bills, hunting licenses and workplace ID and often allows for provisional ballots such as under Indiana's law if no ID is provided.

Beyond any existing voter ID law, the Long Island Business News noted that "students registering for tests will be required to upload photographs of themselves when they register for the SAT or ACT." The photographs will then be printed on their admission ticket, the test site roster and checked against photo ID presented at the testing site.

While this will probably keep students from taking college tests for each other, students or anyone else can still easily try to vote for others on Election Day in states without effective voter ID laws.

Adding confusion to voter ID criticism is that students are often cited among the groups to suffer most from an ID requirement. Yet students wanting to go to college must now show ID multiple times just to take a test.

The College Board quickly set up strong ID verification standards when their credibility was challenged. One would expect governments to be more willing to protect the integrity of every vote cast.

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Cherylyn Harley LeBon is member of the National Advisory Council of Project 21. She is a former Senior Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Follow her on Twitter (@HarleyLeBon).

Published by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.


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