This post is a part of Spread The Vote’s voter education program, Voter Ed. As a way to engage the voting population and support discussions about voting 365 days a year, each month, Voter Ed will explore one frequently asked voter question about the voting process. Edwina is our Voter Ed mascot. To learn more about the Voter Ed program and Edwina, you can go to www.SpreadTheVote.org/Voter-Ed. If you’d like to become a Voter Ed partner and receive our monthly state-specific packages, please email VoterEd@SpreadTheVote.org.
Hi! Welcome to Voter Ed. My name is Ed, short for Edwina, and I’m here to discuss the voting process. The topic for March is Voter ID laws. I’m going to use this Medium post to give you a bit of background on voter ID laws in the United States and the impact they have on potential voters. Let’s get started!
Many individuals within the voting population can recall a time when voting was as simple as showing up to your polling place, saying your name to the poll worker, locating your name and address on the voting roster, and then voting. However, this no longer describes the voting process for registered voters living in voter ID states. Currently, there are 34 voter ID states, in which a registered voter has to present some form of identification in order to cast a regular ballot. Failure to produce an acceptable form of ID can lead to casting a provisional ballot and jumping through additional hoops to get it counted as a regular ballot.
So what caused this jump in ID requirements? Supporters of voter ID requirements argue that they are necessary to combat in-person voter fraud, although there is little evidence that voter fraud exists. In fact, this type of fraud is so rare as to be statistically insignificant — between 2000 and 2014, there were only 31 documented cases out of over 1 billion ballots cast. An American is more likely to be struck by lightning than commit in-person voter fraud. However, the number of voters impacted by these laws covers a variety of groups.
The obstacles to obtaining voter ID are numerous.
- The voter must first gather documentation — birth certificates, naturalization papers, Social Security cards, marriage certificates for people who have changed their names, and proof of residence. Original copies are usually required, which can cost money to obtain.
- Elderly voters who were born in rural areas may have never been issued birth certificates, and must make their way through an endless bureaucratic maze in order to prove their identities.
- People in poverty face the challenge of paying for original paperwork.
- For some people, the gender marker on their ID may not match the gender they are visually presenting as. Legally changing your gender marker on an ID is a costly and lengthy process that may be unavailable to many people.
- People who are experiencing homelessness lack the required residential or mailing address.
- Students and young voters may find their dormitory addresses and student IDs are not accepted.
The specifics of what types of ID are accepted under each law vary from state to state, and research shows that 1 in 5 voters is unaware of what ID is required. Voters may be misinformed and think that only a driver’s license is accepted, when in reality they may possess another acceptable document. When restrictive ID laws are passed, voter education is crucial so that voters feel confident and prepared when they go to the polls. To find out whether your state has a voter ID law in place, you can go to the National Conference of State Legislature’s website. If you’re in an ID state and you scroll to the bottom, you’ll see a detailed list of the types of IDs accepted by your state. If you don’t have one of the required types of IDs, you can go to www.spreadthevote.org/voters.
Thanks for joining me this month as we learn more about voter ID laws. Don’t forget to check back next month when we discuss primary elections!
Email VoterEd@SpreadTheVote.org to sign up to be a Voter Ed partner and receive our monthly state specific voter education packages. You can also follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @SpreadTheVoteUS and visit our website, www.SpreadTheVote.org, to learn more!