As the 2012 elections approach, several new studies by civil rights advocates are fueling the controversy over voter identification laws. One study, released by the Black Youth Project, predicts major negative effects of such laws on American minority populations, especially younger eligible voters (ages 18–29). As many as 700,000 people of color may be prevented or deterred from voting, the study’s authors claim. They say that recent laws that require stricter identification of voters at the polls, such as by photo IDs, will disproportionately impact people of color because they are less likely to have the necessary IDs or other official paperwork, which can be costly to get.
Latinos and African Americans already have lower levels of voter registration than non-Hispanic whites, and minorities more often lack photo identification. Presenting proof of citizenship, which some Voter ID laws require, is another problem for some individuals of voting age. The states’ various voter identification laws differ in terms of strictness. Most include a procedure for a voter unable to satisfy the requirements at the polling place to cast a “provisional” ballot, which may or may not end up being counted, depending on whether the necessary identification is presented soon after the election.
According to supporters of voter identification laws, which are in place in 31 states, their purpose is simply to combat voter fraud. In some states, efforts are also under way to clear, or purge, voter registration rolls of names that do not qualify. According to a report by the Pew Center on the States, 1.8 million deceased persons are currently listed as registered voters. In addition, millions of registrations are inaccurate or invalid—mostly due to Americans’ mobility.
The extent of actual voter fraud is difficult to prove, according to one professor of law and political science who also says that it is equally difficult to find someone who can prove he or she was prevented from voting by the ID requirements. And one area that is ripe for fraud—absentee balloting—is not being reformed by these laws.
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- Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know about Voter ID Laws
This article by a nonprofit group promoting “journalism in the public interest” examines the issues surrounding voter identification laws.
(Source: ProPublica, June 23, 2012)
- New Photo ID Laws May Impact Key Elections, Hurt Minority Voter Turnout
Read about the Black Youth Project study critical of strict Voter ID laws for their likely negative effect on electoral participation among youth, especially minorities.
(Source: Washington University, September 12, 2012)
- Voter ID Laws, Purges May Deter 10 Million Latinos from Polls, Study Says
This article recounts the claims by the Advancement Project that strict Voter ID laws will have a huge discriminatory effect on Latino voting participation.
(Source: Fox News, September 24, 2012)
- Voter Identification Requirements
Get all the facts on Voter ID laws across the 50 states, including details of differing requirements and status of legal challenges; includes an interactive state-by-state map.
(Source: National Conference of State Legislatures; accessed September 30, 2012)
- Voter ID Cases: Invisible Voter v. Imaginary Fraud
This opinion essay by a professor of law and political science questions the ability of Voter ID laws to address the underlying, largely unproven problems.
(Source: CNN, August 31, 2012)
- Study: 1.8 Million Dead People Still Registered to Vote
This article covers the report by the Pew Center on the States about voter registration lists nationwide.
(Source: NPR, February 14, 2012)