More states require photo ID for voting

Controversy over photo identification has been in the news a lot in recent months, specifically in regard to laws passed by some states that require photo identification when voting, according to the National Association of Healthcare Access Management.

These laws, however, have an effect outside the voting booth as well. Are you who you say you are? Have you been here before? Sound familiar?

National Public Radio (NPR) ran a story analyzing a study from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law. The study, “Voting Law Changes in 2012,” looked at the population of U.S. citizens who don’t have identification to use for voting. The NPR article can be found at http://n.pr/yPenNs. The study can be found at http://bit.ly/nZWvCn.

The study indicates that in the 2012 elections, millions of Americans found that since they last voted, and for many that would be 2008, there were new barriers that could prevent them from voting. At least thirty-four states introduced legislation that would require voters to show photo identification to vote. Photo ID bills were signed into law in seven states: Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. By contrast, before the 2011 legislative session, only two states had ever imposed strict photo ID requirements.

The study also shows that 89% of the U.S. population has some form of photo identification, while the remaining 11%, about 3.2 million people, do not. Most of the 11% without identification fall into one of four categories: the elderly, minorities, the poor, or young adults aged 18 to 24.

The Brennan Center estimates that 18% of all seniors and 25% of African-Americans don’t have picture IDs.

Here’s how NPR reports it:

Many people have multiple forms of identification, including those that display their pictures, such as employee badges or credit and debit cards. But states with strict voter ID laws require people to have certain photo IDs issued by governments ... That typically means driver’s licenses. But many seniors and many poor people don’t drive ... And many young adults, especially those in college, don’t yet have licenses ...

A good number of these people, particularly seniors, function well with the identification cards they have long had, such as Medicaid cards, Social Security cards, or bank cards.

Not to worry. If you really need photo identification, NPR reports that many states offer non-driver identification cards that can be displayed when voting, often provided by motor vehicle agencies. But here is an interesting Catch-22: “to get an ID, you need an ID.”

In most states with voter identification laws, citizens must present birth certificates to obtain new photo identification cards. If a state does have a person’s birth certificate, they often must present a photo identification card to obtain a copy. NPR continues its reporting based on the focus on these laws and the impact they have on individuals who find they might not be able to vote.

Shift to the healthcare setting. The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), in the report “Characteristics of Frequent Emergency Department Users” (found at http://bit.ly/kx0Cml) stated that about 20% of “high emergency department users” are 65 and older, and 37% of emergency department patients are poor and near poor. These numbers reflect a significant part of the population that is unlikely to have photo identification.