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Understanding the Burden of Photo ID Voter Laws

by: mooncat

Thu Jul 19, 2012 at 10:58:00 AM CDT

The Brennan Center for Justice has just released a new, must read, report , The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification, that focuses on 10 states with restrictive voter ID laws -- Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

This report conclusively demonstrates that this promise of free voter ID is a mirage. In the real world, poor voters find shuttered offices, long drives without cars, and with spotty or no bus service, and sometimes prohibitive costs. For these Americans, the promise of our democracy is tangibly distant. It can be measured in miles.

... making the ID itself free does not address the significant obstacles that can make it difficult for Americans who lack the required photo ID to obtain one. Many of these voters do not have a car and will have to rely on public transportation — where it exists — to travel to a far-away government office. That office may be open only a few hours a week, and rarely on weekends or in the evening. Voters may have to miss work or arrange for childcare to make the trip. And even if they can make it there, they may not be able to afford the costly supporting documentation — such as birth certificates or marriage licenses — required to apply for photo ID.

The information included about Alabama is shocking:

  • 32.7%, or 1,137,724, voting age Alabama citizens live more than 10 miles from the nearest state ID-issuing office which is open more than 2 days a week
  • 6.1% of voting age Alabama citizens (213,386) have no vehicle access.
  • 26.8% of those voting age Alabama citizens with no vehicle access (57,285) also live 10 miles or more from the nearest state ID-issuing office that's open more than 2 days a week
  • Alabama has the lowest per capita investment in public transportation of any state in the study -- zero dollars.

Beyond the difficulties of travel and acquiring the necessary supporting documents, the offices (drivers license offices in Alabama) which issue these IDs are not open all the time.  Under "Idiosyncratic Hours" the Brennan report notes that :

In Alabama, the Rockford office is open only on the third Thursday of the month.

Imagine you live in the Rockford area, you realize you need the new ID to vote, you are able to lay hands on your birth certificate and your marriage license (if you're a married woman) AND you find someone willing to drive you to the office.  But you get there on Wednesday.


Or say you know the office is only open on Thursday.  But you get there on the second Thursday.


Or on the first or fourth or even the elusive fifth Thursday of the month.


Imagine the frustration and imagine how many people who experience that will never make it around to getting back to that office with all the necessary supporting documents on the correct day -- and during the often limited hours -- to try again.  Burdensome?  Yes it is. And it will happen all over Alabama's Black Belt.

Voter ID difficulty in Alabama

... in 11 contiguous counties in Alabama, all of which are squarely located in the black belt, all state driver’s license offices are part-time and are open only one or two days per week. More than 135,000 eligible voters live in these 11 counties. Nearly half of them are black, and the black poverty rate is 41 percent.

As the report notes, it doesn't have to be this way.

Once partisan “voting wars” have subsided, we can easily move to modernize our ramshackle voter registration system. Using digital technology, states can assure that every eligible voter is on the rolls. That would add millions to the rolls, cost less, and curb the potential for fraud.

We could spend time doing those things, but we don't, because one political party has realized that the fewer people who can vote, the better their chances of winning elections.  This reminds me so much of the situation that gave us the 1901 Constitution in Alabama, where the wealthy planters realized it was getting harder and harder to steal elections so they had to shut those voters likely to oppose them out of elections altogether.

mooncat :: Understanding the Burden of Photo ID Voter Laws
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Alabamians of voting age (4.00 / 2)
doesn't equate to registered voters, a smaller number of people.

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge...."      Hosea 4:6

That's true (4.00 / 1)
And it's unfortunate.  Democracy is better when more people participate.  We ought to be trying to get everyone who is eligible to register and vote, not make it more difficult for those who have already registered to actually cast a vote.

Work harder and work smarter!

[ Parent ]
Two questions: (4.00 / 1)
[1] What is the definition of "eligible voters"?
[2] In Alabama, if a person has no way to go get a free photo ID, how do they get registered to vote?

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge...."      Hosea 4:6

You can register to vote by mail (4.00 / 1)

People can go door to door handing out voter registration forms.  Most political campaigns (at least Democratic ones) have a big voter registration component and you'll hardly every find people doing door to door campaigning without voter registration forms in hand. 

In election years it's not uncommon to see voter registration tables set up at the grocery store or the discount store, not to mention at fairs, concerts and other big events.

In a lot of schools it used to be standard practice to offer voter registration forms to high school seniors so they could fill them out when they turned 18.  Some history and political science teachers still hand them out.

In other words, there are many ways that voter registration forms come to the voters, unlike the photo ID where the voter has to go to a special office that may keep capricious hours.  

Work harder and work smarter!

[ Parent ]
Thanks for your answer (4.00 / 2)

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge...."      Hosea 4:6

[ Parent ]
As for your other question ... (4.00 / 1)

My reading of the report (you really ought to read it for yourself) gives me to understand that "eligible voters" are citizens of voting age, based on the most recent census.

Also, the distance from the ID-issuing office is straight line distance or as the crow flies, not as a person would drive.  Given that, we know that a lot more people would have to travel at least 10 miles to get an ID.

Work harder and work smarter!

[ Parent ]
I read the report (0.00 / 0)
and it didn't specify what an eligible voter is. I found what I think may be the answer in "Posts Tagged Brennan Center for Justice" on "The Fifth Column" website where it says "80 percent of the 75 million eligible voters who did not take part in the 2008 election were not registered to vote." In other words those 75 million are eligible to vote but can't because they're not registered to vote.
If those people don't care enough to register they can't vote with or without a voter photo ID and shouldn't be cited as being disenfranchised.

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge...."      Hosea 4:6

[ Parent ]
Correcting myself (0.00 / 0)
I should have said "80 percent of the 75 million eligible voters"

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge...."      Hosea 4:6

[ Parent ]
Your comment ignores the point of this report. (4.00 / 1)
Many of those who are of appropriate age and are otherwise qualified to vote, are precisely the ones who are being blocked by the suppression efforts. You make it sound as though they have simply decided not to register, which, in many cases, is not true at all.

Only after the last tree has been cut down. Only after the last fish has been caught. Only after the last river has been poisoned. Only then will you realize that money cannot be eaten. Cree Nation Tribal Prophecy

[ Parent ]
piggieheart, I'm not ignoring (4.00 / 1)
anything in the Brennan Center for Justice report. The point of my comment you replied to is simply that the report is misleading because it uses the words "eligible voters" when 80 percent of the 135,000 people "in 11 contiguous counties in Alabama, all of which are squarely located in the black belt" that it counts as eligible voters aren't even registered to vote. So called "suppression efforts" didn't block them. The voter photo ID law wasn't in effect then and it won't be in effect until 2014 at the earliest. By not registering, they blocked themselves.

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge...."      Hosea 4:6

[ Parent ]
You are misunderstanding the figures (4.00 / 1)
The 'eligible voters' cited in the Brennan report are all eligible voters -- those registered as well as those who aren't.  It is not just the non-registered eligible voters.  No way are 80% of the eligible voters in those counties not registered.

Work harder and work smarter!

[ Parent ]
mooncat, I concede (4.00 / 1)
that I may be a bit confused. I've read so much on this topic from so many places that I can't honestly recall where I read what. Old age is catching up with this over 79 year old man. :-)

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge...."      Hosea 4:6

[ Parent ]
I wouldn't attribute the confusion to age (0.00 / 0)

There is an awful lot of info out there on this topic, much of it conflicting, but I do believe my interpretation of the report is correct this time.

My Daddy always said it was better to wear your mind out than to let it rust out.  We would all wish to be as engaged as you at 79. 

Work harder and work smarter!

[ Parent ]
In Dragontide's earlier diary (0.00 / 0)
about Dale Jackson I asked whether anyone has any idea of how many registered voters in Alabama don't have a photo ID that our statute requires in order to vote. And, of those, for how many of them would it difficult to obtain one. No one responded, so maybe no one knows.
Also, it's worth noting that according to an article that was published in The Anniston Star "minority voter turnout has risen in Georgia and Indiana even though both states have a photo ID.".

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge...."      Hosea 4:6

Study after study in various states indicates (0.00 / 0)
... that the number of eligible voters without the required photo ID is 10 to 11%.  I assume that the ratio is about the same for registered voters as for people who have not registered.

Work harder and work smarter!

[ Parent ]
Focus on voter rather than voter ID card ! (0.00 / 0)

The laws about voter always made me angry as officials thinks more about laws and formality rather than voters and citizens demands.

bozeman real estate



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