In recent years, the GOP has introduced, in many states, various Voter ID laws purporting that for an election to truly be fair and valid, we must have some sort of government provided identification to show our individual citizenship status. This push is designed to force citizens to jump through unnecessary hoops to prove their status all under the pretense that they are preventing dead people from voting, stopping ballot harvesting and ballot stuffing, and preventing citizens from voting twice.
When evaluating the need for laws like these, Justin Levitt, Loyola Law School professor, tracked voter fraud that could potentially have been stopped by requiring a Voter ID from 2000 to 2014 and found only 31 credible allegations during a period where over one billion ballots were cast. He posits that many of those allegations have not been investigated and that some of the 31 will end up debunked after an investigation possibly due to “a problem with matching people from one big computer list to another, or a data entry error, or confusion between two different people with the same name, or someone signing in on the wrong line of a pollbook.”
In short, Voter ID requirements are ultimately a solution in search of a problem. A (hopefully) unintended consequence of this push for stricter voting laws is the discriminatory way they are implemented.
A study by Caltech and MIT found that poll workers in New Mexico, where a strict Voter ID law is in place, did not always ask for an ID to verify the voter’s identity, with 64.7% of voters stating that they showed a form of identification. The most common form shown was the voter registration card (over half reported) with driver’s license being the second most common at only 1/3 of those times. The study also found that minority groups were more likely to be asked for a form of identification, with the probability for Hispanic male voters at 92% while the probability of a white female voter was around 69% and a white male voter was at 83%. All of this is to say that people of color are more likely to face more roadblocks when at the polling booth, if they are even able to get there at all.
For those with stable resources, the idea of having difficulties getting a form of identification is almost laughable. In reality, 11% of U.S. citizens of voting age – over 21 million Americans – do not have a government-issued photo ID with 25% of those being African Americans. The percentage of white Americans of voting age without a photo ID is only 8%. There are many factors that may lead to a citizen being unable to obtain an ID, among them, numerous costs to obtain supporting documents, travel, and waiting during business hours at the expense of the applicant. These costs are estimated to range from $75 to $175, a significant amount for low-income families. Travel expenses can include expenses for public transport, if one does not have a car or even a driver’s license. It is common for those in a more metropolitan area to not own a car, instead choosing to utilize public transportation or rideshare apps/taxi services. As an addendum, those in rural areas, while more than likely having a driver’s license and car, can still run into issues in the form of the distance they must travel to get to the nearest office. This can be especially impactful on those who are elderly or those with disabilities that make being in a car for long amounts of time difficult or near impossible.
To summarize, Voter IDs are just another way to control the ballot boxes and skew the results based on discriminatory actions against minority groups and low-income families – groups that Republicans view as more likely to vote Democrat. GOP officials must be held accountable for their attempts to undermine citizens’ voices while crowing about a problem that does not exist.