- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A group of Tennessee college students wants a federal court to require the state to accept their school identification cards as valid voter identification.

The out-of-state students attending Fisk University and Tennessee State University say in the lawsuit filed in Nashville on Wednesday they would like to vote in Tennessee but lack proper ID. Tennessee will not accept identification cards from other states nor will it accept student identification cards from Tennessee colleges and universities.

The students say the voter ID law is unconstitutional, violating the students’ right to vote and their right to equal protection. They note Tennessee does accept college and university identification cards issued by the state to workers, just not to students. And they say that obtaining a free Tennessee identification card that is accepted at the polls is a difficult and time-consuming procedure.

According to the lawsuit, student IDs from state schools were originally included as valid identification in the voter ID bill that became law in 2011, but they were taken out after lawmakers expressed concerns that student IDs were easy to duplicate.

The lawsuit claims that lawmakers did not offer any evidence that student ID cards are more vulnerable than any other accepted form of voter ID.

It also says that while lawmakers were making it more difficult for young people to vote, they were making it easier for older people to vote. Lawmakers dropped the age at which people could vote by an absentee ballot without demonstrating any special circumstances from 65 to 60.

The suit names Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins as defendants. A spokesman for the officials said they are unable to comment on pending litigation.

Last year, a report by the Government Accountability Office found states that had adopted strict voter ID laws saw steeper drops in election turnout than those that had not. Those drops were steepest among those aged 18-23.

After the report was released in October, Hargett dismissed it, claiming it used biased information from a “progressive data firm.”

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