Are “Free” Voter IDs Not Really Free for the Poor and Elderly?
Friday, July 20, 2012
Going to the polls on Election Day and having to pay $20 to cast a ballot may seem outrageous. But that is what thousands of poor Americans are facing due to new voter ID laws.
In 10 states, voters must now show some form of photo identification. Those who do not have this ID must obtain one, and in some states, that requires having a birth certificate or showing a copy of a marriage license.
Proponents of Voter ID laws have claimed that the IDs can be obtained for free. But sometimes it costs money to get something for free.
People needing a copy of their birth certificate or marriage license will have to pay $20 or even $25 in some instances. Paying even a lesser amount, like $8, can still be challenging for low-income Americans.
Another challenge for voters lacking IDs is access to transportation. The Brennan Center for Justice estimated there are nearly 500,000 individuals who do not have access to a vehicle and live more than 10 miles from their nearest state ID-issuing office.
Some of these offices (in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas) are only open part-time.
“The advocates of these laws kept saying we’re going to provide these IDs for free and that’s going to eliminate all of the problems,” Keesha Gaskins, co-author of the Brennan Center report, told The Washington Post. “We found the ability to get documents isn’t that simple. The documents are costly for many, many voters and there are serious transportation barriers for many voters. We just found really significant problems.”
One voter ID law, in Texas, is facing a court challenge from the U.S. Department of Justice, which says the requirement could disenfranchise the elderly and minorities.
To Learn More:
Study Finds Costs Associated With Voter IDs (by Krissah Thompson, Washington Post)
The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification (by Keesha Gaskins and Sundeep Iyer, Brennan Center for Justice) (pdf)
Judges Skeptical of Texas’s Arguments on Voter ID Law (by Sari Horwitz, Washington Post)
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