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State Voter ID Laws Disenfranchise Voters


7/18/2012

New Brennan Center for Justice report finds that state voter ID laws disenfranchise low-income Americans and people of color

State voter ID laws, which require residents to present a government issued ID to vote, make it harder for low-income Americans to participate in our democracy, a new report from Joyce grantee the Brennan Center for Justice reports. Additionally, 1.2 million eligible African American voters and 500,000 eligible Hispanic voters live more than 10 miles from their nearest ID-issuing office that is open more than two days a week, the report found. 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.

The findings were released in a Brennan Center report, The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification, that details the obstacles of obtaining a valid government ID in order to cast a ballot. Other key findings include:

  • Ten states have restrictive voter ID laws.
  • Legal precedent requires states to provide access to free state identification. However, getting ID can be challenging
  • The 11 percent of eligible voters who lack voter ID must travel to a designated government office to obtain one.
  • Restrictive voter ID states will provide 127 electoral votes — nearly half of the 270 needed to win the presidency. Therefore, the ability of eligible citizens without photo ID to obtain one could have a major influence on the outcome of the 2012 election.

In Wisconsin, one of the Great Lakes states Joyce Foundation grantees’ work in, a voter ID law is currently being challenged in court. The law will not be in  effect for the November 2012 election, but could limit voter participation in future elections.

The Wisconsin law was enacted to prevent voter fraud. But, a report from Joyce grantee The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law found that potentially fraudulent votes accounted for less than .00007 percent of all ballots cast in Wisconsin during the 2008 presidential election. Each year, as many as 5 million Americans could be denied the right to vote because of rules like those passed in Wisconsin.

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