The latest study, “The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification,” from the Brennan Center reveals the extent of the obstacles challenging 3-4 million voters in affected states across the country – in both rural and urban areas – as they try to obtain valid voter photo IDs. It’s not at all easy, despite the claims of voter photo ID proponents.
These anti-voter laws are cloaked as an attempt to bring integrity to our elections systems yet many are now seeing them for what they really are: one of the greatest self-inflicted threats to our democracy in our lifetimes. These new laws threaten to silence the voices of those least heard and rarely listened to in this country – the poor, the elderly, racial and ethnic minorities, the young and people with disabilities.
Even “free” voter photo IDs have a price. Often voters need to travel some distance to the ID offices, which, in turn, can have limited hours of operation. In addition, applying for ID requires documents, and those documents may not be free. Acquiring those documents (such as marriage or birth certificates) can entail visits to other offices that are not easily accessible. In addition, for some individuals, the needed documents don’t even exist– perhaps, because someone was born at home in a rural area and there is no birth certificate or someone never received or misplaced a marriage certificate or divorce papers. Even when the documents exist, birth certificates can cost between $8 and $25.
Those who need to overcome this assortment of obstacles often rely on public transportation which isn’t readily available in rural areas. Even in urban areas some ID offices are far from the city center with no good transportation available.
All of these challenges can lead to a “catch 22” cycle of difficulties that pile up on top of each other and may result in the disenfranchisement of eligible voters. Some voters have been unable to get a photo ID without showing a birth certificate and cannot get a birth certificate without a photo ID. Because of this likely impact, proposals for voter photo ID cannot be separated from the difficulty of obtaining that ID.
The Washington Post aptly notes that, “this report comes on the heels of closing arguments in a trial over Texas’s new law, in which Justice Department lawyers argued that requiring photo IDs from voters would disenfranchise the elderly and minorities.” It further points out that, “In the Texas case, a judge on the panel suggested the law would force some people to travel more than 100 miles to get the documents required for photo identification.”
The League and our partner organizations like the Brennan Center are actively fighting against ID legislation across the country. This report further illuminates the issues with voter photo ID proposals. The personal stories and examples plus the numbers in the Brennan Center report spur us on to continue our work ensuring that every eligible citizen is educated and empowered to use their vote.