According to The National Conference of State Legislature, 36 states require voters to present some form of identification at the polls. The argument given for these rules cites the prevention of in-person voter impersonation and an increase in the public’s confidence in the election process. The expected forms of ID normally differ depending on the state and include documents such as birth certificates, U.S. passports and driver’s licenses.
These stringent regulations have prevented certain groups of people, such as those belonging to a lower socioeconomic status and racial and ethnic minorities, from voting.
Several individuals face difficulties obtaining government-issued identification due to various reasons, primarily cost and accessibility. For instance, the American Civil Liberties Union states that the process to obtain an ID is costly. Even if an ID is offered for free in certain states, voters must incur numerous costs, such as paying for birth certificates in order to apply for a government-issued ID. These underlying documents are a significant expense for lower-income Americans, and the combined cost of these documents can range from $75 to $175.
In addition, traveling to obtain IDs is often a major burden for those that live in more rural areas. For example, in Texas, the ACLU states that some people must travel approximately 170 miles to reach the nearest ID office.
Voter ID is also discriminatory to many ethnic and racial minorities. The NCSL states that up to 25% of Black citizens eligible to vote lack government-issued photo IDs, whereas this is the case for only 8% of White citizens.
Furthermore, the U.S. has more immigrants than any other country in the world. According to the Pew Research Center, there are more than 40 million immigrants living in the U.S., many of them seeking work and refuge as they flee persecution in more unstable and fragile countries. For this reason, it is acceptable to assume that many immigrants lack forms of identification necessary to vote regardless of if they were able to obtain U.S. citizenship, thus stripping them of their right to vote.
It is essential to recognize that these requirements are standing in direct opposition to equal voting rights. Saeveral of the Constitutional amendments, specifically the 15th, 19th and 26th, require that voting rights shall not be limited on account of race, color, socioeconomic status, sex or age for those above 18. Therefore, it is apparent that these requirements are violating many fundamental rights established by the U.S. Constitution.
Moreover, certain candidates, most prominently President Donald Trump, have favored certain socioeconomic classes when creating taxation policies in the U.S. Wealthy Americans have been granted lower tax rates, thus providing less funding towards programs benefiting lower class citizens. Voter ID policies make it harder for lower-class citizens to play a role in how future U.S. policies are created. By suppressing their right to vote, candidates are both re-enforcing their own policies while ensuring they are preserved in the future.
It is undeniable that a form of identification is necessary in order to prevent cases of voting fraud. However, the current methods statistically target a certain demographic of voters and thus limit their ability to exercise fundamental democratic freedom.