Voter ID laws have existed for many decades, and even strict iterations of it have been upheld by the Supreme Court. Currently, thirty-two states have some form of a Voter ID law in effect. Voter ID laws require that an individual present some form of identification at their polling. The form of identification varies by state and statute. The less strict statutes allow some voters without proper identification to vote without further action by the voter. The stricter statutes allow only provisional voting, and require that the voter take additional action or the provisional ballot will not be counted.
Voter ID laws only address an almost nonexistent type of voter fraud, voter impersonation. Sensational stories about dead people voting has created the myth that voter fraud is a rampant problem we must deal with. Voter impersonation fraud, however, is less likely to occur than being hit by lightning. Voter ID laws create inefficiency because it costs much more to administer a voter ID program than does it actually prevent voter impersonation fraud.
Voter ID laws create discriminatory effects against minorities. Minorities are less likely to have the necessary IDs, or the documents required to obtain the proper ID. The Government Accountability Office reports that 89% of Whites, 83% of Hispanics and 79% of African-Americans owned adequate identification in Texas. In Indiana 83% of Whites and 72% of African-Americans owned adequate identification. Nationwide 84% of Whites, 73% of Hispanics and 63% of African-Americans owned adequate licenses. These disparate rates of ownership means that the impact of the law will disproportionately affect minorities who do not already own adequate identification.
Voter ID laws create barriers to voting for many minorities. These laws create an extra step that a potential voter must take in order to exercise their right to vote. Individuals may incur costs in obtaining adequate identification, such as license fees or time spent obtaining the proper documents to even get the identification in the first place. Many states, such as Alabama, offer free IDs to voters who do not already have adequate identification, but the voter must first obtain certain documents to prove their identity before they can receive their free identification. This can be a costly and time-consuming task depending on where the person was born, and how difficult it is to obtain the necessary documents. For example, birth certificates are acceptable documents for obtaining a free ID, but birth certificates are held in the government office of where the person was born. If the person moved to Alabama from California, then they would have to obtain their birth certificate from California. Even Judge Posner, former supporter of Voter ID laws and staunch conservative, has admitted that this process is difficult, and he does not know how he would go about obtaining his birth certificate.
Although these numbers were insufficient to sway a court that Voter ID laws are a form of vote suppression, Alabama’s recent announcement that they would be closing thirty-one DMV branches may just push the calculus to the other side. The Alabama state legislature recently cut the budget to the Department of Public Safety by $11 million. To cope with these cuts the DMV, a part of DPS, will be closing thirty-one branches. In every single county where a DMV branch will be closing, more than 75% of the registered voters are African-American. Not only do minorities have the required identification at a lower rate than whites, but now, now they will have an even harder time obtaining the necessary identification in Alabama. Should the Alabama Voter ID law be challenged now, the courts should invalidate the law. Even if on its face the law does not appear discriminatory, when considered under the totality of the circumstances the effects will be discriminatory.