There is no public policy justification for a voter ID law. Voter impersonation at the polls - the only type of fraud that could be addressed by a voter ID law - is virtually non-existent. Despite spending millions on a 2005-2006 voter fraud crusade, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott did not find or prosecute one case of voter impersonation. A national five-year effort by the Bush Justice Department netted only 86 prosecutions from 2001 to 2006.
A 2006 study by the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice found that 18 percent of Americans age 65 and over did not have a photo ID. In Texas, even the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute admit that 37 percent of Texans over the age of 80 do not have a driver's license. The same study found that up to 25 percent of African Americans do not have a government-issued photo ID.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, women are more than twice as likely as men not to have a driver's license. In fact, one of every five senior women does not have a license. Also, a woman's name and address on a photo ID might not match those on the voter list due to name changes related to marriage, divorce and other factors. The Texas Department of Vital Statistics reports an average 200,000 marriages and divorces in Texas each year, after which it can take up to two months to get a new ID. Now, the Federal Real I.D. Act, that turns state driver's licenses into a national identity card, adds additional barriers for everyone, particularly women of every age, to obtain or renew their driver's license.
For many seniors, disabled veterans, and hourly workers, getting a state-issued photo ID is not only costly and time-consuming, it is also difficult if not impractical to get to the forms and information needed to get an ID from agencies with limited locations and hours. Many disable vets and elderly Texans already have difficulty getting to the polls, and forcing vets and seniors who don't have a photo ID to gather documents and jump bureaucratic hurdles to get one before voting is unwarranted and insulting because no one impersonates a voter at the polls.
Nonpartisan academic studies show photo ID laws discourage turnout. An academic study of the 2004 presidential election conducted for the bipartisan Federal Election Assistance Commission found that states with voter ID laws had an overall turnout reduction of 3 percent, a figure that reached 5.7 percent among African Americans and 10 percent among Hispanics. Former Texas Republican Party political director Royal Masset estimated that a photo ID requirement would reduce Democratic turnout in Texas by 3 percent. That is a lot Texans who would be denied the right to vote in Texas!