Voter ID laws may keep a half-million eligible voters from fulfilling their duty this year, according to a study released by the Brennan Center for Justice on Wednesday.
As Fox News Latino reports:
“The report found that while legal precedent requires states to provide free voter IDs to eligible residents who don’t have them, even free IDs are not always easy to obtain. Structural barriers such as lack of transportation, restricted access to ID-issuing offices, the cost of necessary documentation, and bureaucratic red tape could prevent many Americans from voting in November.”
Misguided conservatives argue that the opposition to voter ID laws is part of a left-wing conspiracy to allow undocumented immigrants to cast their votes in favor of the Democratic Party. They stress that since IDs are required in many other areas of life, requiring an ID to vote isn’t asking for much.
“The response of proponents of these laws has been, well, just get an ID,” says Lawrence Norton, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “Unfortunately, for many people, this is not going to be such a simple solution.”
The report lays out some of the obstacles many voters face in obtaining an ID:
“The 11 percent of eligible voters who lack the required photo ID must travel to a designated government office to obtain one. Yet many citizens will have trouble making this trip. In the 10 states with restrictive voter ID laws:
- Nearly 500,000 eligible voters do not have access to a vehicle and live more than 10 miles from the nearest state ID-issuing office open more than two days a week. Many of them live in rural areas with dwindling public transportation options.
- More than 10 million eligible voters live more than 10 miles from their nearest state ID-issuing office open more than two days a week.
- 1.2 million eligible black voters and 500,000 eligible Hispanic voters live more than 10 miles from their nearest ID-issuing office open more than two days a week. People of color are more likely to be disenfranchised by these laws since they are less likely to have photo ID than the general population.
- Many ID-issuing offices maintain limited business hours. For example, the office in Sauk City, Wisconsin is open only on the fifth Wednesday of any month. But only four months in 2012 — February, May, August, and October — have five Wednesdays. In other states — Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas — many part-time ID-issuing offices are in the rural regions with the highest concentrations of people of color and people in poverty.”
Voter ID laws seem reasonable at first glance. Progressives and conservatives alike will do anything to ensure that the democratic process is unfettered and untainted. But while everyone agrees that the undocumented and other ineligible voters should be strictly prohibited from the ballot box on Election Day, the way in which conservatives look to preserve the democratic process wittingly (and for their sake, we’ll say unwittingly) bars fully-eligible voters from participating.
It’s true that IDs are required in almost everything Americans do on a day-to-day basis. But isn’t voting something entirely different than the everyday? Shouldn’t voting be made easier than, say, cashing a paycheck or buying a pack of cigarettes?