Strict voter identification requirements across the country are depriving many voters of their right to vote. Of course, the lawmakers who write these laws and voters who use their identification in their everyday lives don’t think this is a big deal. However, low-income households, the elderly, transgender individuals, minorities, and people with disabilities (PWD) are more likely to be disenfranchised by these laws because they are more likely to experience difficulty obtaining the underlying documents necessary. 3.6% of registered white voters lacked proper ID, compared to 7.5% of black registrants. The transgender community is disproportionately affected by these laws. 57% (approximately 78,000) of transgender people may not have identification or documentation that accurately reflects their gender, making them ineligible to vote.
Processes to change names or gender markers on identification can be expensive, difficult, and vary from state to state. For individuals who do not have traditional identification like a driver's license or passport, states are legally required to provide a process for them to obtain some form of voter ID. However, states can purposely make it difficult to obtain voter ID by severely limiting the days that their ID offices are open. The most extreme example includes a location in Sauk County, Wisconsin where the office is only open on the fifth Wednesday of every month (which equates to four days of the entire year).
Nationally, 25% of African-American voting-age citizens lack a government-issued photo ID, compared to 8% of White voting-age citizens. The income gap plays major role in explaining this difference. Obtaining a government issued ID can easily cost $75 to $175 in transport fees, waiting times, and paying for supporting papers like birth certificates, which are not as easily accessible to minority communities living in poverty. When states enact voter ID laws, their turnout decreases by 2-3% and primarily affects ages 18-23, new voters, and African-American voters.
More than three-quarters of older voters between the ages of 65 and 74 are registered to vote, and more than 60% of those aged 85 and above cast a ballot in the 2016 election. Despite large voter turnout of the elderly population, who take their civic duty seriously, stringent identification laws are making it more and more difficult for them to participate in the voting process. Whether that means finding transportation to renew their expired driver’s license or scrambling to find a birth certificate that was issued 80 years ago, older voters are also becoming targets of disenfranchisement.
Identification problems should not bar Americans from voting. We must remove discriminatory voter ID laws that deny thousands of otherwise eligible citizens the opportunity to participate in the democratic process.
Problems to be Solved
- checkVoter ID laws prevent eligible voters from exercising their rights but do nothing to make our elections safer.
- Voter suppression policies like voter ID laws, voter roll purges, limited polling locations, and onerous signature matching requirements are typically justified as a way to combat voter fraud. Here’s the problem: voter fraud is practically nonexistent. An American is more likely to get struck by lightning than commit voter fraud. 99.9% of “voter fraud” cases investigated turn out to be administrative or clerical errors.
- checkRaise voter turnout
- checkEnsure that Americans who don’t have access to photo ID’s are still able to exercise their democratic rights
As President I will...
- Through the Voting Rights Act, require states to get permission from the Department of Justice (DOJ) before implementing any voter ID laws.
- Direct the DOJ to prohibit all voter ID laws that disenfranchise underrepresented communities.