Our nation is strengthened when the majority of our eligible citizens vote. A wave of voter suppression legislation, chiefly government-issued photo ID laws, threatens to make it difficult to impossible for communities of color, elderly, veterans and people with disabilities to do so.  That is why VoteRiders, working in the states with key partners to help voters acquire the necessary documents to vote, is so vital.

Eric Marshall, Senior Manager for Election Administration, State Voices; former Co-Leader of Election Protection

About the Issue

Protecting the right to vote is not a partisan issue. It’s an American issue.  No citizen should be prevented from exercising this basic right.

Complicated voter ID laws put state bureaucrats between eligible voters and the ballot box.

You must act now to protect your vote and the votes of others.

You can help save our American democracy.

Are you Ready to Vote?

A total of 34 states* have passed laws requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls:

Alabama Alaska Arizona
Arkansas Colorado Connecticut
Delaware Florida Georgia
Hawaii Idaho Indiana
Kansas Kentucky Louisiana
Michigan Mississippi Missouri
Montana New Hampshire North Carolina
North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma
Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina
South Dakota Tennessee Texas
Utah Virginia Washington

*Although North Carolina's photo voter ID requirement goes into effect in 2016, poll workers are required to send voters' information to the state for future contact if they currently lack acceptable ID. Pennsylvania's law has been overturned and is not being appealed. The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down that state's voter ID law on October 15, 2014.

What’s the Big Deal?

Some people may think it’s easy to get a photo ID. Doesn’t everybody need one to drive a car, get on a plane, and buy cigarettes and alcohol? Well, not everyone drives including people with disabilities, older adults – the Greatest Generation! - and low-income individuals. Not everybody smokes or drinks alcohol. And many citizens have their reasons why they do not travel on airplanes. Read law professor Justin Levitt's article about the truth behind needing an ID to board an airplane.

Ok, then … just get the ID that you need! Not so fast – obtaining a current, valid, government-issued photo ID in order to vote means at least one trip to the local DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles or wherever in each state you get a voter ID). Depending upon where you live, your local DMV can be up to 100 miles away; and the days and hours it’s open can be few.

The much bigger difficulty can be trying to get the documents you need to prove who you are and where you live. To get a voter ID, a state may require a certified copy of your birth certificate with a raised seal (and, legal documentation of any change of name since then) – all of which costs money and can take a lot of time, plus a social security card plus two acceptable documents showing your name and address.

Who Do Voter ID Laws Affect?

A report released by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School analyzed laws in 14 states as of October of 2011. The study found that these laws had the potential to disenfranchise more than five million eligible voters in 2012. There are currently 34 states whose voter ID laws are in effect or imminent. 

Some laws specify strict current, government-issued photo ID requirements. Those who do not have a current, valid photo ID – primarily those without a driver’s license - are older Americans, people of color, young adults, people with disabilities and individuals with low incomes.

To further understand the issue, a Brennan Center survey conducted in 2006 regarding US citizens and proof of citizenship yielded the following findings:

  • As many as 11 percent of voting-age United States citizens – more than 21 million individuals – do not have current unexpired government-issued photo identification.
  • 18 percent of American citizens age 65 and above do not have a current government-issued photo ID. Using 2005 census estimates, this amounts to more than six million senior citizens.
  • 25 percent of African-American voting-age citizens have no current government-issued photo ID, compared to eight percent of white voting-age citizens. Using 2000 census figures, there are more than 5.5 million adult African-American citizens without photo identification.
  • As many as 18 percent of citizens aged 18-24 do not have photo ID with current address and name; using 2004 census tallies, almost 4.5 million young adult American citizens are in jeopardy.

Further, voter ID laws disproportionately impact women. Those who have assumed a married name may still have their single-status name on their driver’s license vs. their name on the voter roll. The above-mentioned Brennan Center survey found that only 48% of voting-age women have easy access to their U.S. birth certificates with their current legal name, “and only 66% of voting-age women with ready access to any proof of citizenship have a document with current legal name.” The study used census data from 2000 and concluded that the only available proof-of-citizenship documents possessed by as many as 32 million voting-age women do not reflect their current name.

We encourage those in voter ID states to double-check and renew their IDs now, before the next Election Day.

What VoteRiders is Doing

VoteRiders, a non-partisan 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, assists local, statewide and national organizations that help eligible citizens to obtain their voter IDs and underlying documents (birth certificates, Social Security cards, etc.), if necessary.  Read more about what we do.