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Why New Photo ID Laws Mean Some Won't Vote

 
 
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2012 11:28 am
Why New Photo ID Laws Mean Some Won't Vote
by Corey Dade - NPR
January 28, 2012

The argument over whether voters should have to present photo identification at the polls usually splits along party lines. Republicans who favor the requirement say it prevents ballot fraud. Democrats and election rights groups who oppose it say it is meant to suppress turnout.

And people of all political stripes wonder what all the fuss is about.

Most Americans are accustomed to whipping out photo IDs at work, the bank or even their own apartment buildings. And their driver's license — perhaps the most common form of government-issued photo ID — has become just as indispensable.

"I get that all the time: 'What's the big deal? I just got my driver's license renewed, it took like five seconds,'" says Larry Norden, acting director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, which opposes these laws. "Frankly, that's why these laws have been so successful, because 89 percent of the population does have photo IDs."

That leaves another 3.2 million Americans who don't possess a government-issued picture ID, according to a recent study co-authored by Norden.

In 2008, the Supreme Court upheld a voter-identification law in Indiana, saying that requiring voters to produce photo identification is not unconstitutional and affirming that states have a "valid interest" in improving election procedures and deterring fraud.

Four years later, 31 states require voters to show some form of identification at the polls. Fifteen of them require photo IDs. At least five of those states just recently passed tough new photo ID voting laws that could affect voters for the first time in 2012.

The Justice Department is now involved (so far, rejecting a South Carolina law), and the courts are soon to follow due to the growing number of lawsuits challenging these laws.

As the battle intensifies, some basic questions are being raised: How many Americans don't have government-issued picture identification? And how, in this era of post-9/11 security and digital commerce, could anyone function without it?

Who Are They?

By all estimates, those least likely to have a government-issued photo ID fall into one of four categories: the elderly, minorities, the poor, and young adults aged 18 to 24. The Brennan Center estimates that 18 percent of all seniors and 25 percent of African Americans don't have picture IDs.

Seniors traditionally have been the most consistent voting group, particularly in absentee balloting. Turnout among minorities has steadily risen over the years and reached a record in 2008 (when the rate of black turnout virtually equaled that of whites for the first time). Also in 2008, turnout of under-24-year-olds reached its highest rate since 1992.

Why Don't They Have Photo IDs?

Many people have multiple forms of identification, including those that display their pictures – like employee badges or credit and debit cards. But states with strict voter ID laws require people to have certain photo IDs issued by governments.

That typically means driver's licenses. But many seniors and many poor people don't drive. In big cities, many minorities rely on public transit. And many young adults, especially those in college, don't yet have licenses.

Voter ID Laws Across The Nation
Source: NCSL

A good number of these people, particularly seniors, function well with the IDs they have long had — such as Medicaid cards, Social Security cards or bank cards. Among the elderly, many of them have banked at the same branch for so long that tellers recognize them without needing to see their IDs. They also may rarely need to cash or deposit checks, relying instead on the direct depositing of Social Security and pension payments.

"The people we're finding are very poor people, people who never drove — and it's surprising how many people are like that," says Larry Dupuis of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, which has filed suit to overturn that state's voter ID law. "They tend to be older people, often women. They also never had a need for a state ID card. There are many things you don't need an ID card for that people think you actually need one for."

Among minorities in poor and rural communities, it's common to bypass banks with their paychecks and rely on cash-checking stores, which will accept most forms of photo ID.

Many states offer non-driver IDs that can be displayed when voting, often provided by motor vehicle agencies.

But that can create a host of problems for some. Rural residents can live great distances from state motor vehicle offices. And some state motor vehicle agencies have chronically long wait times for customers. In Tennessee, which has a new voter ID law, the governor has raised concerns about whether offices are prepared to handle an increased volume of ID seekers.

To Get An ID, You Need An ID

In most states with voter ID laws, citizens must present birth certificates to obtain new photo IDs. Seniors and those born in rural areas, in particular, face a difficult time meeting the requirement because birth certificates weren't regularly generated in the 1930s and earlier. And many of these people were delivered by midwives, who often improperly spelled babies' and parents' names on birth documents.

People are caught in a catch-22: You need a birth certificate to get this ID, but to get a birth certificate you have to have an ID

- Elizabeth McNamara, League of Women Voters.

If a state does have a person's birth certificate, they often must present a photo ID to obtain a copy. That can put an individual back at square one.

"People are caught in a catch-22: You need a birth certificate to get this ID, but to get a birth certificate you have to have an ID," says Elizabeth McNamara, who heads the League of Women Voters.

McNamara also notes that a birth certificate may not be sufficient documentation for women who changed their names after marrying. States require them to present their marriage licenses or divorce decrees.

Here are three longtime voters and their stories in trying to comply with new voter ID laws.

Thelma Mitchell, Nashville, Tenn.

When Thelma Mitchell, a retired state employee, learned that her old employee ID (which was issued by the state and included her photo) wouldn't meet Tennessee's new voter ID law, she went to a motor vehicle office to obtain a valid photo ID. The agency asked her for a birth certificate, but she didn't have one and was denied her request for a new ID.

Mitchell, 93, has never had a birth certificate. She wasn't born in a hospital and was delivered by a midwife, in Alabama in 1918. Birth certificates, particularly for African Americans in the South, weren't regularly generated at the time. As a result, Mitchell may not be able to vote this year for the first time in decades.

"I got so mad" about being turned away. Mitchell said in an interview. "I was holding my peace to keep from telling him off. So I didn't get to vote."

Another obstacle for Tennessee seniors: The state doesn't put photos on the licenses of drivers over age 65. This practice affects some 30,000 people, according to voting rights advocates in the state.

Florence Hessing, Bayfield, Wis.

At age 96, Florence Hessing is disabled, rarely leaves her home and votes by absentee ballot. She has a driver's license that expired a few years ago. She wrote to the state asking the requirements for obtaining a new photo ID under the state's recently enacted voter ID law. The response she received outlined the requirements and included a $28 fee — which angered Hessing because she expected the ID to be free.

Hessing first had to come up with a birth certificate. She wrote to Iowa, where she was born, but the state had no official record.

"I think that's a shift if I can't vote," Hessing said in an interview. "It'd feel like I was thrown out."

Ruthelle Frank, Brokaw, Wis.

Like Hessing and Mitchell, Frank, 84, was denied in her application for a new voter ID because she lacked a birth certificate. She was born in Wisconsin, has lived in the same home for 83 years and never had need of the document.

"After I was married we made several trips into Canada, I used my baptismal certificate to cross all the time," Frank said. "That's all I ever needed."

She called her county's registrar of deeds, to no avail. The state's vital records office managed to find her birth certificate, but there were other problems — both her parents' names were misspelled, rendering the document invalid.

"In order to get it corrected, I'd have to amend it. And it would cost $200," Frank said. "I decided I didn't want to spend $200 for the right to vote because I've always thought the right to vote was free. I don't think it's fair."
 
RABEL222
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2012 11:37 am
Maybe the conservatives can get things to the point it was in Hitlers Germany and force all the people they dont trust to carry identification papers with them all the time.
0 Replies
 
roger
 
  0  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2012 03:08 pm
@BumbleBeeBoogie,
I know a guy that has serious issues with the photo id laws. He's hard to photograph, but I'm not sure vampires should be voting, anyway.
Rockhead
 
  0  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2012 03:20 pm
@roger,
vampires are people, too.


rat.
roger
 
  2  
Reply Sat 28 Jan, 2012 03:21 pm
@Rockhead,
No picture; no vote. Why are you having trouble with the concept?
RABEL222
 
  3  
Reply Sun 29 Jan, 2012 03:10 pm
@roger,
Because just behind this rule is one that will state no money no right to vote. If we had a Supreme Court that really understood the constitution rather than right wing politics we wouldent have any rules refusing US voters the right to vote. Like I said before we are becoming more like Hitlers Germany the more conservative we become. What happened to less government?
roger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Jan, 2012 03:31 pm
@RABEL222,
Just my opinion, but I think your slippery slope is turning into an uphill slog on a muddy road.
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Jan, 2012 03:35 pm
Quote:
Why New Photo ID Laws Mean Some Won't Vote
Yeah! Hopefully illegal aliens
will be the ones not voting.





David
0 Replies
 
Mame
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Jan, 2012 04:17 pm
@roger,
I agree. You need photo ID for so many things, so what's wrong with instituting it in the voters' booth? You can't get on a plane without it, you can't take money out of the bank from a teller without it, you can't get a passport without it, you can't get a loan without it... and it goes on. So what? If they don't have photo ID, get it. Get with the program.

The old lady's situation, however, is aggravating. If I were her local politician, I'd fight that for her. A misspelling is a stupid reason to deny someone, and it's not like they don't know who she is - 83 yrs in the same house, for Pete's sake!
ehBeth
 
  2  
Reply Sun 29 Jan, 2012 04:27 pm
@Mame,
It would mostly be an issue for seniors in my community as well.

It came up for several here during the last federal election while I was waiting to vote. Mostly older women who'd never had driver's licences, retired before office i.d. passes were needed, know the local bank tellers etc. A few old fellas as well - no photo i.d.

No problem for younger voters or new Canadians - they've all got photo i.d. up the wazoo.
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Jan, 2012 04:28 pm
@RABEL222,
RABEL222 wrote:
What happened to less government?


good question
Rockhead
 
  3  
Reply Sun 29 Jan, 2012 04:30 pm
@ehBeth,
but this is a really good use of government.

it only keeps poor people from voting...
roger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Jan, 2012 04:34 pm
@Rockhead,
They let me vote, don't they?
Rockhead
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Jan, 2012 04:36 pm
@roger,
if you say so.

now I wonder why fred bit you...
0 Replies
 
Mame
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Jan, 2012 04:46 pm
@ehBeth,
I think seniors who have insufficient ID could be exempted.

And poor people could be charged a nominal fee, say $5.

Sorry, but that's the way it's going these days and everyone's going to have to lump it.

Some people still have rabbit ears and rotary phones, somewhere, I'm sure. They're not able to interact with just about every retail and government service because they can't punch 1 or 2 or *. It's just 'progress' and that's the way it is. Just like people who can't afford the baggage fee won't be able to take luggage. Or if they can't afford the high price of gas, they'll have to bike or walk or take a bus.
Joe Nation
 
  2  
Reply Sun 29 Jan, 2012 05:10 pm
Beth: When you vote in the USA, you check in at your polling area by stating your name and address. The clerk at the area then finds you in the register for that precinct.
Guess what is printed there right besides your name and address?
A photocopy of your signature when you registered with the State to vote.
In order for you to be given a ballot to vote with you have to sign the register and the signatures have to match.
Just like you do to get the other key to safe deposit box. The bank doesn't look at your ID, they want to see if your signature matches the one on file.

Joe(Picture, schmicture)Nation
ehBeth
 
  3  
Reply Sun 29 Jan, 2012 05:13 pm
@Mame,
Mame wrote:

Some people still have rabbit ears and rotary phones, somewhere, I'm sure. They're not able to interact with just about every retail and government service because they can't punch 1 or 2 or *. It's just 'progress' and that's the way it is. Just like people who can't afford the baggage fee won't be able to take luggage. Or if they can't afford the high price of gas, they'll have to bike or walk or take a bus.


all of that is the case for a number of my senior neighbours. They can't afford to travel, so baggage fees are moot. They walk and take public transit as they can't afford cars now, or never could. They can't afford to replace tv's and phones with more modern models just because there are newer models.

To be questioned at the voting booth because they don't have photo i.d. on top of all the other crap they're dealing with just isn't right.
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Jan, 2012 05:14 pm
@Joe Nation,
Joe Nation wrote:

Guess what is printed there right besides your name and address?
A photocopy of your signature when you registered with the State to vote.
In order for you to be given a ballot to vote with you have to sign the register and the signatures have to match.


that is quite marvellously sensible
0 Replies
 
Mame
 
  2  
Reply Sun 29 Jan, 2012 05:20 pm
@ehBeth,
ehBeth wrote:

To be questioned at the voting booth because they don't have photo i.d. on top of all the other crap they're dealing with just isn't right.


I agree and they should be cut some slack. Lots of files are missing. Both my high school and the Dept. of Vital Statistics don't have a copy of my graduation (weirdly, both sent me letters telling me those files had been in fires) - it was tough getting into university without it, let me tell you. If it hadn't been for those letters, I wouldn't have gotten in, I know.

I really do think that the poor and the elderly should be accommodated, especially since they've been (supposedly) voting all along.

I don't remember showing ID to vote, actually. We were sent a voter's card and we took that to the voting station. You show the card, they look you up, cross off your name, and give you a ballot. And I think if ID is required, any 2 pieces of ID should suffice. A bill with your name and address on it, a Social Insurance card, a paycheque, a credit or debit card, a bank statement, a tax form... really, we don't need to have picture ID. And really, who gives a crap? Who's going to say they're Ida Walters just so they can vote twice?
0 Replies
 
roger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Jan, 2012 06:43 pm
@Joe Nation,
I don't recall any photocopied signature next to my name and address. In the last election, they did require ID. The prior election they didn't, and didn't look when I offered it.

I guess in New Mexico, my signature is copied at the bottom of my driver license.
0 Replies
 
 

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