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The facts on voter ID

This afternoon, the General Assembly will begin consideration of proposed legislation that would mandate all voters display a government-issued photo ID for in-person voting.  The good government advocates at Democracy NC [1] have produced a fact sheet that spells out several of the enormous problems with such an idea, which we have reproduced below. You can view the original by clicking here [2].


It may seem like common sense to some people, but requiring voters to show a government issued photo ID before voting is a bad idea. Here’s why:

Voters choose politicians, not the other way around: Voter ID is just one voting restriction among many that politicians in states across the country are pushing as part of a partisan agenda to create laws that could disenfranchise millions of eligible voters. It’s wrong for politicians to place restrictions on eligible voters for their own personal gain.

Preventing voter fraud is important, but voter ID could disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters in the name of election integrity. In North Carolina, the State Board of Elections reports that upwards of 500,000 people may not have a driver’s license or state issued ID card. People who often move, lower?income adults, seniors who don’t drive and women who change their names after marriage are all less likely to have current ID. The bottom line is that no eligible voter should be turned away from the polls because they don’t have a certain type ID.

Voter ID unfairly impacts some voters far more than others.The new push for voter ID laws and other restrictions mirror past efforts to intentionally create barriers to the ballot box for some groups, particularly African Americans and poor whites. Whether voter ID laws are intended to discriminate or not, the truth is that they do. In North Carolina,

  • African Americans are 22% of all active registered voters, but they are 31% of the active registered voters who do not have a NC photo ID.
  • Women are 54% of active voters, but 66% of those without a NC photo ID.
  • Seniors are 18% of active voters, but 26% of those without a NC photo ID.
  • Youth are 13% of active voters, but 16% of those without a NC photo ID.

Voter ID Will Cost Taxpayers: If Voter ID is required, the state must provide free ID to anyone who doesn’t have it. That cost alone could be in the millions. If local elections boards are tasked with providing the free IDs, the cost of making those falls on county budgets, which are already strapped in this economic climate. Is Voter ID really worth increasing property taxes or diverting money from education or other needed public programs?

Hidden Costs: Even if voters who currently lack ID were given free ID, they still have to pay for the legal documents needed to get ID, such as a birth certificate or social security card. These documents can be hard to obtain and cost money. It also costs money (and time) to get to the DMV, the social security administration, or a county records department to obtain these documents. For low?ncome voters, these barriers are significant and unfair.

Does is really stop fraud? Photo ID for in person voters doesn’t stop honest mistakes or fraud caused by errors in voter registration or computer glitches. It also does not safeguard elections against voter fraud via mail in, absentee ballots (which have been shown to lead to far more fraud than in person voting). More research about voter fraud is needed so elected leaders can determine the best approach to making elections more secure.