The most common issues associated with presenting a valid identification in order to vote are that it increases the barrier to voter participation, systematically discriminates against minority groups and young voters, as well as being majorly unnecessary as the rate of voter fraud in the United States has remained insignificant in the past decades. Some population groups in the US are disproportionately affected by voter ID requirements compared to others. The groups that are most affected are the elderly population, African Americans, and young voters.
ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH VOTER IDs
1. Creates a Barrier to Voter Participation
- Voter ID laws create an extra barrier to voter participation because it increases the requirements to vote. According to a recent study by ACLU, about 11 percent of eligible voters, representing over 21 million Americans, do not own any form of government-issued photo identification. This, in turn, indicates that as much as 21 million people may not get the chance to vote unless they find a way to acquire a valid voter ID before an election.
- In 2008, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of voter ID laws, stating that the risk of voter fraud is “real” and the need to ensure the integrity of the electoral process exceeds the burden it would impose on voters. Voter ID laws are present in some form in 34 states, which means that voters in those states may be ineligible to vote without first presenting a voter ID.
- The process of acquiring a voter ID varies from state to state, and although free, can be both time and cost-intensive for some voters. A study found that it costs between $75 to $175 in both direct costs and waiting time to acquire a government-issued ID. Obtaining a government ID for the sole purpose of voting can indirectly increase the cost of voting, which naturally serves as a barrier to voter participation.
2. Discriminates Against The Disadvantaged, Young Voters, and Minority Groups
- The vast majority of Americans without valid voter IDs belong to minority groups. A 2015 study found that individuals without voter IDs are six times more likely to be found in households that earn less than $25,000 per annum compared to those earning $150,000 per annum. In addition, minority ethnic groups, such as Blacks and Hispanics, are 2–3 times more likely to lack photo IDs compared to Whites.
- Young voters are also disproportionately affected. On average, Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are two times more likely to lack a valid voter ID compared to the general population.
- Also, not only do states require a government-issued ID, they sometimes require specific types of government IDs, rendering some government-issued IDs irrelevant in the process. In some states, such as Texas and Arizona, student IDs issued by public universities cannot serve as voter IDs, disenfranchising young voters in the process.
3. Unnecessary and Targeted at Democrats
- The core idea of requesting voter ID by its proponents is to increase the integrity of elections by detecting and eliminating cases of voter fraud. However, they have been few proven cases of voter fraud dating back to 1979.
- According to the Heritage Foundation, there has been a total of 1,298 proven cases of voter fraud in the last 36 years, suggesting that voter fraud is not a significant issue when compared to the over 1.8 billion votes that were cast within the same period. In addition, an independent study by the Brooking Institution concluded that there is a 0.0000007% chance for voter fraud to influence election outcomes.
- Historically, the groups most affected by this requirement, such as minority groups, the elderly population, and low-income groups, tend to vote for Democratic candidates. Based on this fact and the minimal rate of voter fraud in the country, Democrats across the country believe that voter ID requirement laws were created to systematically disenfranchise the party and are unnecessary.
- Over the years, Democrats have actively campaigned against voter ID laws in favor of allowing as many people as possible to cast their votes without the increased burden of voter ID requirements.
MOST AFFECTED GROUPS
Few recent studies have attempted to determine the population of Americans without valid voter IDs. The groups of voters that are most affected by voter ID laws or lack a valid means of identification are the elderly, African Americans, and young voters.
1. The Elderly Population
- According to a 2006 report by the Brennan Center for Justice, about 18 percent of the elderly population, representing 6 million senior citizens, do not own a valid voter ID.
- In a more recent study, which was published in 2015, only 4 – 8 percent of individuals aged 65 and above were found to lack a valid voter ID, compared to the national average of 7 percent.
2. The African American Population
- According to the 2006 Brennan Center for Justice study, 25 percent of the African American population, representing 5 million eligible voters, lack a valid voter ID.
- A review of the population group by Project Vote in 2015 showed that this figure slightly decreased to 13 percent. According to recent data shared by the Pew Research Center, 30 million African Americans will be eligible to vote in the 2020 election.
- Based on these facts, an estimated 3.9 million eligible African Americans do not own a valid voter ID, according to the latest available data.
3. Young Adults
- About 11–15 percent of Americans between the ages of 17 – 24 do not own a valid voter ID. A total of 24 million Gen Zs will be eligible to vote in the upcoming 2020 elections.
- Based on these facts, an estimated 2.6 million to 3.5 million eligible young Americans do not own a valid voter ID.
- The Brooking Institution estimates that there are currently 235 million eligible voters in the United States, of which a total of 158 million Americans are expected to vote in November.
- The Pew Research Center expects about 240 million Americans to be eligible for the coming 2020 elections.
Number of People Who Became 18 Years of Age and Eligible to Vote Between 2016 and 2020
- In the 2016 elections, the youngest generation of Americans, the Gen Z population, represented 4 percent of eligible voters.
- In 2016, the total estimated number of eligible voters was 225 million.
- According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, the Gen Z population is projected to represent 10 percent of eligible voters in the coming 2020 elections.
Based on these findings, we can safely estimate the number of Gen Zs who became 18 and eligible to vote in the coming elections within the last four years.
- Total number of eligible Gen Z voters in 2016 = 4% * 225 million Americans = 9 million Americans.
- Total number of eligible Gen Z voters in 2020 = 10% * 240 million Americans = 24 million Americans.
- Therefore, about 15 million (24 million — 9 million) Gen Zs became 18 and eligible to vote in the coming elections within the last four years.
- Baby Boomers are currently the largest group of voters in the coming 2020 elections. According to a recent survey, 28 percent of eligible voters are between the ages of 56 and 74. Millennials are the second-largest group of eligible voters, with Americans between the ages of 24 and 39 representing 27 percent of eligible voters.
- Further review of the data indicates that the population of eligible Gen Z voters, the youngest generation of voters, has now surpassed the population of the oldest generation, the Silent Generation. Eligible Gen Z voters, who are between the ages of 18 and 24, now represent 10 percent of all eligible voters compared to the Silent Generation, who collectively now represent only 9 percent of total eligible voters.
- Women are more likely to vote compared to men. In the 2016 presidential election, a total of 73.7 million women voted compared to the 63.8 million men who voted.
- According to a recent report by the Center for American Women and Politics, “the number of female voters has exceeded the number of male voters in every presidential election since 1964.” Furthermore, women vote more than men across all age groups, educational levels, and ethnic divisions.
- The US Hispanic population of eligible voters is projected to be the largest minority group in the coming 2020 election, surpassing the African American voters for the first time. According to a recent study, about 13.3 percent of eligible voters are Hispanics, slightly more than the African American population of voters who collectively represent 12.5 percent of the electorate.
- In actual numbers, a total of 32 million Hispanics, 30 million African Americans, 11 million Asians, and 160 million White Americans are eligible to vote in the coming elections.
- The Pew Research Center estimates that minority groups have collectively increased their representation from the 25 percent recorded in the early 2000s to about a third of eligible voters today.
- Voter eligibility tends to increase with education — that is, the more education a person receives, the higher the probability of being eligible to vote. The largest group of eligible voters are American college graduates. About 77 percent of Americans with a college education are eligible to vote.
- Americans who possess some level of college education represent the second largest group, of which more than half (65%) are eligible voters. High school graduates represent the third largest group of voters, with 54 percent of high school graduates being eligible to vote. Only 36 percent of individuals without a high school diploma are eligible to vote.
- As with education, the probability of being eligible to vote also tends to increase with income. Households with higher incomes are more likely to vote compared to poorer or disadvantaged households.
- Nationally, poor households or Americans within the low-income bracket represent 43 percent of the American population. However, such groups only represent 28 percent of eligible voters.
- Households with an annual income of $5,000 only report voter turnout of about 50 percent. In contrast, high-income households with an annual income of $150,000 or more report voter turnout above 80 percent.