Voter ID Requirements – What’s the Rumpus?

Here’s the rumpus:  Laws mandating voters present a photo ID before voting prevent people from voting.  The laws disenfranchise the elderly, because six million people age 65+ do not have photo IDs.  The laws disenfranchise African Americans, because approximately 25% do not have photo IDs.  They disenfranchise the low income voter, because 15% do not have photo IDs.

Obtaining a non-driver’s license photo ID is not a day at the beach.  Instead, it is a day off work, which for many people without an ID means a day without pay.  Even if the photo ID is provided free by the State, there are transportation costs and, again, the cost of time away from a job.  For seniors, particularly in non-urban areas, there are access issues.  Plus, in many states, those photo IDs must be renewed periodically.  Who knows why, except to create a barrier to voting. 

California follows the basic requirements of the Federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA).  Individuals registering to vote must  show a photo ID or include their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their social security number on their voting registration form.  The objective is to prove a person’s identity at the point of registration.  That is reasonable.  If the requirement is not satisfied at time of registration, the voter will be asked to show a photo ID to prove identification the first time the person votes.  After that, no questions asked.  

As many as twelve states require a photo ID every time a person votes at the polls.  Options for people without an ID vary; virtually all states permit a provisional ballot although several of those states require the individual to turn up at the Department of Elections with a photo ID very shortly after election day.  Kansas,  ever on the forefront of protecting America from voter fraud (apparently there was one case in Kansas in the past six years), requires people to show their birth certificates to register to vote.  Do you know where your birth certificate is?

Whatever California’s foibles, the state currently is fairly sane when it comes to voting laws, regulations, and practices.  This does not mean we can be complacent.  We may not be immune to forces preferring to limit access to the vote.  Staying attuned to trends elsewhere, including bellwether states of Florida, Texas, and Ohio, keep us forewarned and on the alert to protect our citizens’ precious right to vote. 

Learn more at the League’s website page discussing the impact of photo IDs on voter access.

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