The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Facts on Voter ID

Did you know that in some states you can't vote without a photo ID like a driver's license?

The state says that such laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud, despite the lack of evidence.

Civil rights advocates and voting experts have widely criticized these laws for creating unnecessary obstacles for people less likely to have such IDs, including seniors, people with disabilities, students, people of color, and people on fixed income.

But doesn't everybody have an ID?

According to a poll done by the Brennan Center, as many as 11 percent of all voting age Americans do not own a valid government-issued photo ID. The same study also found that 16 percent of Latinos, 25 percent of African Americans of voting age, and 18 percent of all American citizens 65 or older do not own a valid government issued photo ID.

How do voter photo ID laws affect immigrants, citizens and people on fixed incomes?

One of the basic ideas underlying the 24th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is that no citizen should pay for the right to vote. Yet obtaining official citizenship documents are frequently costly and time consuming.

Getting a birth certificate for foreign born or native citizens may require traveling great distances and can cost up to $40, a passport $97, and replacement citizenship documents $220. By comparison, the poll tax struck down by the Supreme Court forty years ago is less than $10 in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Not everybody is equally affected by this. According to the Brennan Center study, "citizens earning less than $25,000 per year are more than twice as likely to lack ready documentation of their citizenship as those earning more than $25,000."

Has anyone actually been denied the right to vote because of restrictive photo voter ID laws?

Yes. In January of 2008, an elderly voter in Indiana was turned away at the polls, despite having a bank card with a photograph, a utility bill and a phone bill.

In May of 2008, also in Indiana, a dozen elderly nuns and a group of students from South Bend, Indiana were reportedly told they could not cast a regular ballot in the state’s primary because they did not government-issued IDs, such as a driver’s ID or U.S. passport.

And a 97-year-old woman in Arizona who was born before birth certificates were common, never had a passport, and no longer drives, was turned away at the polls because she did not have the required ID for voting.

Do photo voter ID laws actually prevent voter fraud?
No. The Indiana photo ID law was created with sole purpose to deter in-person voter fraud. But there has yet to be a documented instance of in-person voter fraud in the Hoosier state; it's a non-existent problem. The photo ID laws do nothing to deter the common types of voter fraud in absentee voting, ballot stuffing, or double voting in different states.

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