How to turn off independent voters and push them toward the other party:

If you’re a Democrat, blindly support public-sector unions, even when those unions clearly are working in their own - not the taxpayers’ - interest.

And if you’re a Republican, keep on with the Voter ID charade, in which the GOP’s conservative wing backs only those rules that happen to suppress Democratic-leaning votes.

Case in point on the latter situation: the latest fracas in the North Dakota Legislature, this one involving student IDs.

The Legislature’s 2013 Voter ID law - which passed both Houses on almost entirely party-line votes; on election issues, that’s a frantically waving red flag - had the very effect critics had predicted. It suppressed votes among Democratic-leaning populations, notably college students.

That means there were not just tens or dozens but potentially hundreds of students across North Dakota who could have voted in previous elections, but who tried to vote in November and were denied.

“Extrapolating the results of this survey to the general population indicates that 689 students were unable to vote due to residency issues,” a North Dakota State University study suggested.

This disgraceful result grew from the fact that each student’s driver’s license often listed his or her parents’ address, often dozens or hundreds of miles away from the campus polling place.

So, one obvious remedy would be this: Let student IDs serve as voter IDs, just like driver’s licenses do.

That’s exactly what Senate Bill 2330 would do. The bill calls on North Dakota’s state colleges and universities to issue IDs that list the student’s birth date and college address. Then the bill adds the documents to North Dakota’s list of acceptable voter IDs.

This common-sense reform would solve a very real problem, one that the 2013 Legislature created and that hurt some hundreds of North Dakota students.

To the North Dakota Senate’s great credit, SB 2330 passed unanimously, 46-0.

But the House ...

Some in the House are balking, and the reasons they’re offering are no more valid than the “voter fraud” arguments that launched this whole thing. (“In my 20 years as Secretary of State, we’ve only had one or two or three cases of what we’d consider fraud,” North Dakota’s Al Jaeger said in 2013.)

For example, here’s a passage from a Forum News Service story on Thursday’s debate:

“Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo, questioned whether the Senate bill would give college students preferential treatment, as did Patrick Finken, who is president of Bismarck-based Odney Advertising but said he was testifying on his own behalf.”

Preferential treatment?

Student IDs from North Dakota’s state colleges and universities are valid, state-government-issued IDs. Letting students use them as Voter IDs solves a problem unique to students, exactly as the voting rules accommodate servicemembers, nursing-home residents, tribal members and others in special circumstances.

More tellingly, the current law already lets students vote if they have a special, students-only document: a Student Identification Certificate. Lawmakers in 2013 had no problem with the “preferential treatment” implications of that clause.

But now that the rule has proved balky and unworkable (as intended, some would say), and now that a simple and painless reform has surfaced, suddenly it’s “preferential treatment”?

We dismiss with equal prejudice the odd argument from college presidents that putting addresses on student IDs poses a security risk. What it really poses, we suspect, is an inconvenience for the universities. And until counter-evidence surfaces from the eight states that already let student IDs serve as voter IDs, that conclusion stands.

In Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton has said he’ll refuse to sign any changes to voter-registration or related laws that pass on party-line votes. In North Dakota, SB 2330 met the high standard of bipartisanship when it passed the Senate. If House Republicans want to protect their long-term reputation for fairness (as opposed to their short-term partisan interests), they’ll pass the bill by a similarly broad-based margin.

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