I appreciate the fact that my last post on requiring ID for voting sparked some criticism. I realize this is a bit late, but I wanted to respond with some additional information that may be helpful for further understanding the details of this debate.
Delta Blue responded to my post by noting that most of the barriers I presented really boil down to voter apathy. While I agree that apathy is an issue within the voting population of this country, I do not agree that it is the only way to explain my comments. For further reference, please note this study presented at the American Political Science Association Annual Conference in September 2007. It looks at data compiled from the 2006 mid-term elections in California, New Mexico, and Washington. Specifically, the authors, Barreto, Nuño, and Sánchez, wanted to study how new requirements for voter ID would affect participation by minority voters, specifically Latino, Black, and Asian voters.
Data compiled for the study came as the states listed above were considering making changes to the way their citizens register and vote. All three states were planning to change voter identification requirements, and the authors wanted to look at how the new requirements would affect voter participation in the demographics listed above. The study found that race “impacts access to a driver’s license, as white voters are approximately 10% more likely to have this valid form of primary identification than non-whites. In addition to racial and ethnic minorities, foreign-born voters are also less likely to have a driver’s license. There also seems to be a socioeconomic bias associated with having a driver’s license, as those with higher educations and incomes are more likely to have this specific form of valid identification” (16). Requiring photo identification for voting excludes certain portions of the population, as the above evidence from the study demonstrates that non-white voters are empirically less likely to have photo identification compared to white voters. It also notes the socioeconomic bias, as wealthier voters are more likely to have a driver’s license.
Delta Blue also mentioned that multiple forms of ID are acceptable to prove one’s identity for the purpose of voting. The study explored the ability of voters to produce at least one additional form of identification besides a photo ID. “While Latinos and Blacks were not less likely to have a state driver’s license, Latinos, Blacks, Asians, and immigrants were all significantly less likely to have at least a driver’s license and one additional form of identification…Asians and Blacks were over 20% less likely to have two forms of identification, as compared to Whites, while Latinos were 13% less likely” (17). The authors go on to mention the difficulty in showing something as simple as a utility bill. If an individual does not own a home, that person may not receive utility bills, or if he or she does receive the bills, other members of the same household do not.
There are eight states that require photo ID in order to vote, and there are an additional sixteen that require some form of ID to vote, Kentucky being one of them. Why is it that less than half of the states in the US require ID because of fear of fraud? If this was a relevant fear, wouldn’t all states require some form of ID to vote?
The point I’m trying to make is that we purposely erect barriers to prevent people from voting. At one time voters were required to pay a poll tax to vote, at another voters had to prove they were literate. Now (in 24 states) we just require them to show some form of identification to vote. That may seem a simple request, especially to individuals like Delta Blue, who do not have any problems with providing the required ID. The problem is that we should find another way of helping people to fulfill the criteria we require. If a state requires a photo ID be shown to prove identity and reduce potential for fraud, then the state needs to provide photo IDs to all eligible voters free of charge (see fairvote.org). Or, we should just simplify the process and do away with identification requirements like the 26 other states that do not make this distinction. Until we get to the point where states do offer IDs for free, then they cannot require them as a prerequisite to vote. Otherwise we continue to shut people out of what should be their right as citizens of a democratic nation.