Saturday, September 3, 2011

Brennan Center for Justice On Voter Photo ID Laws

Brennan Center for Justice

While every voter should demonstrate that she is who she says she is before voting, restrictive documentation requirements are not the answer. Burdensome photo ID or proof of citizenship requirements for voting could block millions of eligible American voters without addressing any real problem.

Although most Americans have government-issued photo ID, studies show that as many as 12% of eligible voters nationwide do not; the percentage is even higher for seniors, people of color, people with disabilities, low-income voters, and students. Many of those citizens find it hard to get such IDs, because the underlying documentation (the ID one needs to get ID) is often difficult to come by. Those difficulties will increase substantially if documentary proof of citizenship is needed to vote or to obtain the identification required to vote.

At the same time, voter ID policies are far more costly to implement than many assume. A recent Brennan Center report provides a comprehensive analysis of jurisprudence on the subject, finding that in order to survive court challenges, restrictive voter ID policies would need to be accompanied by an expansion of access to official photo ID and massive public education campaigns. Depending on the state and the details of the proposed policy, this could also involve the purchase of new equipment, expansion of the locations and working hours of government ID-issuing offices, and the provision of official government photo ID to voters without charging a fee.

The Brennan Center conducts research on voter ID, proof of citizenship, and in-person voter fraud. Brennan Center attorneys also assist policymakers and advocates seeking to oppose the most restrictive ID and proof of citizenship requirements or to craft solutions that improve the security of elections without compromising the right to vote.

The Center has compiled a summary detailing the provisions of the new voter ID laws enacted so far in 2011, as well as a fuller round-up of state legislation put forward in 2011 that would restrict voting rights.

The Center has also made available a chart following state legislation that would require voter identification and/or proof of citizenship as conditions to register to vote, and a map with the current voter ID requirements.

More research and publications on voter ID are available here.

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