As mentioned here and here a commonly listed argument regarding voter ID's is the decreased ownership and/or difficulty in obtaining among the poor, people of color, and elderly.

A similar question has gone without an accepted answer, with the more complete suggested answer downvoted, but doesn't answer my question.

This claim is made repeatedly that for some reason poor, people of color, and elderly have difficulty in obtaining ID to vote. Where is there source material for this? What evidence is there that it has any significant impact outside of the homeless community? Are there any hard facts, statistics, studies, or other material that support this claim?

Everything I've been able to find is that the only group of people that has problems with obtaining ID are the homeless. People of color, in general, seem to be able to ID themselves without much trouble.

Please note, I am NOT asking about difficulty in voting. This question is specific towards obtaining sufficient ID for eligible voters.

Anecdotally, I worked with programs involving unemployment, child support, TANF, SNAP, Medicaid, Medicare and a few others. At no point in 5 years working with those programs did I hear of ID being an issue. I know anecdotes are no substitute for data, but I haven't ever seen this claim supported with any real data. I am not interested in contrived arguments regarding hypothetical situations.

  • 4
    If you're interested, there's this document, titled "The High Cost of ‘Free’ Photo Voter Identification Cards", which cites its sources quite a bit as far as I can tell (haven't read much of it), and, in addition to some analysis, later uses multiple anecdotes to show how it can be expensive for some. today.law.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/… Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 12:27
  • 6
    I'm not sure why "outside the homeless community" is mentioned... many (most?) of the homeless are citizens as well....
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 16:17
  • 10
    If you differentiate the homeless community, it provides a clearer picture on the poor, people of color, and elderly. I'd like to avoid any intentional or incidental obfuscation of the issue. Homeless have a recognizable difference in obtaining documents than other demographics. The line blurs some between homeless and poor. However, it isn't fair to people of color to claim that they do have an issue if it turns out that the only subset of people of color with the issue end up being the homeless.
    – David S
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 16:31
  • 4
    Many comments deleted. Please don't use comments to debate the question matter. If you would like to answer, please post a real answer. If you would like to discuss, please use the chat function. Please try to limit these comments to suggesting improvements to the question. Note that the top voted answer has a chat room linked in a comment.
    – JJJ
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 5:22

6 Answers 6


Do poor people, people of color, and elderly have difficulty in obtaining ID?


For example, here are some facts (citations to supporting authorities are found at this link) (the omission of paragraphs from the source related to subjects not pertinent to the question are not expressly noted in the quoted material below).

Anecdotally, I worked with programs involving unemployment, child support, TANF, SNAP, Medicaid, Medicare and a few others. At no point in 5 years working with those programs did I hear of ID being an issue. I know anecdotes are no substitute for data, but I haven't ever seen this claim supported with any real data.

The real data quite overwhelmingly establishes that your anecdotal impressions are inaccurate.

11% of U.S. citizens – or more than 21 million Americans – do not have government-issued photo identification.

Note that the source for this statistics clarifies that this is 11% of voting-age American citizens.

A demographic breakdown of adult U.S. citizens with and without photo IDs can be found here. It shows that non-whites are much more likely to not have photo ID than whites (even for high income non-whites and non-whites who are not young adults), that not having a photo ID is strongly correlated with having a lower income (especially among whites), that young adults are particularly likely to not have photo ID (especially among whites). Another source has a convenient chart breaking down some key data points:

enter image description here

Even if ID is offered for free, voters must incur numerous costs (such as paying for birth certificates) to apply for a government-issued ID. Underlying documents required to obtain ID cost money, a significant expense for lower-income Americans. The combined cost of document fees, travel expenses and waiting time are estimated to range from $75 to $175.

The economic burden and delay make it difficult for poor people to obtain ID, and this issue empirically, is much bigger than most middle class people intuitively expect as illustrated by the large percentage of adult U.S. citizens who don't have IDs.

Young married women whose names have changed are particularly heavily impacted by these costs, and even if one can obtain a suitable ID eventually, it may be challenging to do so in time to vote in the next election (particularly, for example, if you were born and/or married outside the state where you live).

The travel required is often a major burden on people with disabilities, the elderly, or those in rural areas without access to a car or public transportation. In Texas, some people in rural areas must travel approximately 170 miles to reach the nearest ID office.

These factors make it more difficult for elderly and disabled people to obtain IDs.

For example, I have a wheelchair dependent client in a major urban area for whom I make house calls as a lawyer, because it takes him four hours roundtrip by bus, and about an hour and a half (at a much higher cost than an Uber or taxi trip) by a specialty wheel chair transportation vehicle that is often not on time for pickups, to travel from his suburban home to my central city office which is near government offices.

Nationally, up to 25% of African-American citizens of voting age lack government-issued photo ID, compared to only 8% of whites.

The difficulty in obtaining government-photo IDs for African-Americans is strongly suggested by this difference in percentages. Most of the difference is mediated by differences in affluence, including a much higher rate of not owning a motor vehicle, and thus not getting a driver's license (the most common form of photo ID).

As evidence from a 2014 court case showed:

In May 2014 federal Judge Lynn Adelman found Wisconsin's state photo ID law unconstitutional given its adverse impact on many Wisconsin citizens. In his 90-page decision . . . [he notes] that only 47% of black adults and 43% of Hispanic adults compared to 73% of white adults in Milwaukee County hold valid driver's licenses as do 85% of white adults in the rest of Wisconsin compared to 53% of black adults and 52% of Hispanic adults.

Some of this is due to the common discriminatory practice of not locating government offices that provide these services in or near neighborhoods where most African-Americans level, or of understaffing those offices so that delays are longer.

An NPR story explores some of the reasons for the differences:

I think the first thing to look at is to look at who actually drives. The most common form of government-issued ID are driver's licenses and so the people who are most unlikely to drive, as it is, is elderly, the poor, people who live in big cities, like African-Americans, especially young people, too, especially if they attend college. They may not have need for a car at the moment.

And then people who are in rural areas. The other challenge for them is they are not near the Department of Motor Vehicles offices, etc., etc. where you would get these IDs. . . .

if you're someone trying to get a voter ID, you need that type of documentation. In order to get an ID, you often need an ID, so it becomes a Catch 22.

MARTIN: And what about - are the states making any provision to help voters like this who have not previously had IDs...

DADE: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...to get them? Or are interest groups doing that?

DADE: Well, they are. The interest groups are trying to fill in the void of information, where to get the IDs, what kind of documents you need to get them when you show up so you're not caught unawares.

As far as the states go, they are issuing non-driver voter IDs. Many of them are for free, but the problem is, when you go to Department of Motor Vehicle offices, the waits are very long, they're time consuming. The governor of Tennessee, who's a Republican, by the way - he has expressed concern about the average wait times there, which extend well beyond an hour. And if you're talking about thousands of elderly, in particular, they can't wait that long.

A study of Texas voters who tried to vote without photo IDs found some of the following issues came up:

Texans offered various reasons why they didn’t have a qualifying ID for the 2016 general election. Nearly 30 percent said their IDs had been lost or stolen. About 11.5 percent cited work obligations while another 4 percent said family obligations prevented them from getting one.

Nearly 36 percent of individuals without IDs checked the “other” box, many of whom indicated they had moved so their current address didn’t match what was listed on their IDs.

Of those who selected the “other” option, 1.4 percent — 82 people — cited cost as the reason they didn’t have the appropriate ID.

This isn't a representative sample and doesn't include the lion's share of voters without photo IDs who don't try to vote, but it is nonetheless hard data that provides some insight.

A meta-analysis of 31 other studies on the topic found some key factors. The main reason people reported for not having identification was that it had been either lost or stolen. Other factors included lack of money for fees, lack of knowledge of application process, lack of competency with bureaucratic forms, the requirement of an address, and the requirements of an existing piece of identification in order to apply for additional identification.

For people who are economically marginalized even seemingly minor fees constitute a financial hardship that makes the acquisition of PID prohibitive, and sometimes they are funneled though like of sophistication to commercial fee charging services that facilitate services that the government doesn't charge for or charges much less than the service does for.

[F]ees are charged for replacement birth certificates, and if people go through “third party” providers rather than state agencies to obtain this form of ID, additional service fees are incurred. This means that people who have little or no money and who are likely to lose or have their PID stolen . . . are further burdened with higher replacement fees. Ultimately, people regularly prioritize the immediate needs of food, transportation, or rent rather than the costs of replacing a lost or stolen document. Furthermore, additional costs are required if individuals must take public transportation or live in rural or remote locations and have to travel to service centers.

Additional Burdens For Proof of Citizenship

Also, notably, proof of citizenship is much more challenging to marshal (usually requiring a birth certificate that many people are not currently in possession of, marriage certificates to document change of name, naturalization certificates, and/or passports), then the proof of identity needed for a photo-ID without citizenship verification such as driver's licenses or state IDs that do not require proof of citizenship:

A federal district court that heard a challenge to the Kansas law noted that “the sheer number” of people blocked “evidences the difficulty of complying with the law as it is currently enforced.” The court found that more than 18,000 people who tried to register at the state’s motor vehicle offices were prevented from registering between 2013 and 2016 “as a direct result” of the state’s documentary proof of citizenship requirement.

This is because getting a birth certificate and linking it to your identity, or having a passport, can be cumbersome taking time, money and even legal assistance.

A story from the Washington Post puts flesh on the bones of the raw statistics and illustrates in personal and compelling examples, how these factors play out in the lives of individual people without photo IDs. One such story is this one from Texas:

Many of the residents struggling to obtain a valid photo ID are elderly and poor and were born in homes rather than hospitals. As a result, birth certificates were often lost or names were misspelled in official city records.

Hargie Randall, 72, was born in his family’s home in Huntsville, Tex., and has lived in the state his entire life. Randall, now living in Houston’s low-income Fifth Ward neighborhood, has several health problems and such poor eyesight that he is legally blind. He can’t drive and has to ask others for rides.

After Texas implemented its new law, Randall went to the Department of Public Safety (the Texas agency that handles driver’s licenses and identification cards) three times to try to get a photo ID to vote. Each time Randall was told he needed different items. First, he was told he needed three forms of identification. He came back and brought his Medicaid card, bills and a current voter registration card from voting in past elections.

“I thought that because I was on record for voting, I could vote again,” Randall said.

But he was told he still needed more documentation, such as a certified copy of his birth certificate.

Records of births before 1950, such as Randall’s, are not on a central computer and are located only in the county clerk’s office where the person was born.

For Randall, that meant an hour-long drive to Huntsville, where his lawyers found a copy of his birth certificate.

But that wasn’t enough. With his birth certificate in hand, Randall went to the DPS office in Houston with all the necessary documents. But, DPS officials still would not issue him a photo ID because of a clerical mistake on his birth certificate. One letter was off in his last name — “Randell” instead of “Randall” — so his last name was spelled slightly different than on all his other documents.

Kamin, the lawyer, asked the DPS official if they could pull up Randall’s prior driver’s-license information, as he once had a state-issued ID. The official told her that the state doesn’t keep records of prior identification after five years, and there was nothing they could do to pull up that information.

Kamin was finally able to prove to a DPS supervisor that there was a clerical error and was able to verify Randall’s identity by showing other documents.

Is Lack Of A Photo ID Indicative Of Being Ineligible To Vote?

It also bears noting, while slightly off the narrow scope of the question, that the likelihood that an African-American who speaks English with an American accent (a group that makes up the vast majority, probably 98% or more of African-Americans who do not have IDs in all but a handful of counties in the United States) not being a U.S. citizen is vanishingly small.

Put another way, virtually all of the 25% of African-Americans adults without IDs in the United States are U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote (absent felony disqualification which is present mostly in states that also impose other barriers to voting like voter ID laws and also have a long history of racial discrimination). The share of African, Afro-Caribbean, and black Latin American legal immigration to the U.S. is modest, many of those immigrants are naturalized citizens, and those immigrants overwhelmingly have passports. About 6-7% of undocumented immigrants in the United States are black (see here and here) and those undocumented immigrants are overwhelming recent immigrants.

Voters not infrequently have some form of ID but not one of the forms of ID required by Voter ID laws. The types of IDs allowed are tailored to political demographics:

States exclude forms of ID in a discriminatory manner. Texas allows concealed weapons permits for voting, but does not accept student ID cards. Until its voter ID law was struck down, North Carolina prohibited public assistance IDs and state employee ID cards, which are disproportionately held by Black voters. And until recently, Wisconsin permitted active duty military ID cards, but prohibited Veterans Affairs ID cards for voting.

One particularly notorious case involves South Dakota's unwillingness to accept Indian tribe IDs, an especially big factor for people who live on Indian reservations that are remote from non-tribal government offices, who are often poor, and are a group of people that almost by definition is made up 100% of U.S. citizens.

Selected Sources

The sources for the fact cited above include the Brennan Center Brennan Center for Justice, Citizens without Proof: A Survey of Americans’ Possession of Documentary Proof of Citizenship and Photo Identification (New York: Brennan Center for Justice, 2006), a report from the federal government's General Accountability Office (GAO), a published academic journal article with three University of California at San Diego professors as authors, and a Harvard law professor's published academic article, Richard Sobel, The High Cost of ‘Free’ Photo Voter Identification Cards (Cambridge: Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, 2014).

  • 26
    Although the answer does indeed mention that among African-American citizens a larger percentage doesn't have a government-issued photo ID, it doesn't mention why that is. It doesn't explain if those people have difficulty obtaining it, which is OP's question.
    – Ivo
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 8:03
  • 24
    This answer completely sidesteps the actual question. You quote that 25% of African Americans is not registered to vote, compared to only 8% of whites. But you do not provide any evidence that this is because the one group has greater difficulty registering than the other.
    – user41655
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 18:11
  • 4
    @macetw The source clarifies that it is 11% of voting age U.S. citizens.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 23:58
  • 6
    @user41655 and IvoBeckers To the contrary this answer does describe what the barrier is (lower affluence and discriminatory access to offices that provide the service). And to Stuart, I have provided links in the body text per your request.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 0:00
  • 5
    @JonathanReez The sources describe how this number was obtained. Do you have another contradictory source of data? This 25% figure is corroborated by much lower driver's license rates.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 21:25

It's important to distinguish here between ID in general and ID that specifically meets a state's requirements for voting, especially when the state has designed the details of these restrictions to favor or disfavor certain groups.

Many people have some form of ID which serves them well enough in daily life, but it may not be one that's accepted to vote. For example:

  • Some states reject IDs that are expired, while others allow expired IDs only for seniors (as many seniors who've stopped driving no longer have much need to renew their ID and face particular burdens in doing so). This disproportionately makes it more difficult for younger people with expired IDs to vote.

  • Some states accept ID issued by other states, while others accept only in-state IDs. This impacts those who have more recently moved and especially impacts students, who often don't obtain a new ID if they're attending school in another state.

  • Some states accept student IDs, while others do not or have difficult-to-satisfy requirements associated with them that mean many of them aren't accepted.

  • Some states require the ID to show your current address. This disproportionately impacts those who move frequently, who tend to be poorer and/or students. Some may accept additional documents if this isn't the case, but even if this is an option, students often don't have documents like utility bills or bank statements sent to their dorm rooms and/or may not know about these requirements until it is too late.

The effect of all this is that many people have forms of ID that work well enough for them in their daily lives but aren't accepted when they want to vote. This topic always brings up a lot of "how could anyone function in society without an ID?" incredulity, and yet people with multiple perfectly good forms of ID, such as a college student with both an out-of-state driver's license and a student ID, can find themselves unable to vote because their ID doesn't meet a state's particular requirements.

How does this work out in practice? Michigan offers one example, though they subsequently improved this process to make it somewhat easier:

“Your registration had to match with the address on your license,” said Carter Oselett, 20, a junior at Michigan State University and the president of the school’s College Democrats. “So if someone registered at their dorm, but their license had their home address or wherever they moved from, even though they registered at their dorm, if they didn’t update their license, that would lead to them being turned away from the polls.”

Or consider this Texas man:

In his wallet, Anthony Settles carries an expired Texas identification card, his Social Security card and an old student ID from the University of Houston, where he studied math and physics decades ago. What he does not have is the one thing that he needs to vote this presidential election: a current Texas photo ID.

For Settles to get one of those, his name has to match his birth certificate — and it doesn’t. In 1964, when he was 14, his mother married and changed his last name. After Texas passed a new voter-ID law, officials told Settles he had to show them his name-change certificate from 1964 to qualify for a new identification card to vote.

So with the help of several lawyers, Settles tried to find it, searching records in courthouses in the D.C. area, where he grew up. But they could not find it. To obtain a new document changing his name to the one he has used for 51 years, Settles has to go to court, a process that would cost him more than $250 — more than he is willing to pay.

And the nature of these requirements is that they tend to fall disproportionately on certain groups. Those with more stability in their housing situation, transportation access, and other social factors are more likely to have a valid in-state ID, while those who move frequently and/or lack time and transportation may end up with an ID that works for them for most all purposes only to be surprised it's not accepted to vote. And this disproportionate treatment may be further codified into law, such as if expired IDs are permitted for seniors but not younger voters.

  • 10
    The college student example seems quite odd; isn't turning away out-of-state students away exactly how it's supposed to work? When I was in college we were Very Officially told, both with regards to voting and to the census, that those of us who were from out-of-state were legally not considered local residents and should behave accordingly, responding with home addresses and such on the census and voting from our home states (absentee if need be) in elections. Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 14:34
  • 10
    @MasonWheeler No. In general, and there may be some nuance to this in a few states, college students are able to choose whether they vote from their original home address or their school address, as long as they only vote once of course. Students are also counted at their school address if they're living there on census day. Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 17:45
  • 6
    @MasonWheeler It's a perennial source of confusion, but for the Census, ever since 1950, students should be counted at their "usual address" (which, for students who live near their college most of the year, would be their college address).
    – Jason
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 17:54
  • 9
    @MasonWheeler No idea what instructions you were given then, but the rules were similar for the 2000 census: "those who live away from the parental home while attending college and are 'only here during break or vacation' are to be counted at their residence at college; and students living in a group quarters (such as a dormitory or a fraternity or sorority house) are to be counted at the group quarters." Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 17:56
  • 6
    @KarlKnechtel it doesn't matter that it's the state's fault, it still answers the question: yes, he has an additional challenge to obtaining photo ID. And the $250 is likely filing fees and other administrative fees that a pro bono lawyer cannot waive--see texaslawhelp.org/guide/i-want-to-change-my-name. While it's possible to get a court fee waiver, it's up to the whims of a judge; and that doesn't waive the fees for background checks (carried out by private third parties) or for fingerprinting.
    – Tiercelet
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 15:52

In a lot of cases, people within a certain demographic will be more or less likely to have certain types of ID. This can be either because their demographic makes it more difficult (or impossible) to obtain an given type of ID, or because their demographic means they simply do not need or benefit from having that type of ID.

A driver’s license is a prime example of this. There are many things in the US that do not require a driver’s license), so someone who has an incentive to use public transport (for example, because it’s dirt cheap compared to maintaining a car) is less likely in the US to have a driver’s license.

Consider as another example a passport. There is no need for anybody who is not traveling internationally to have a passport, and they are expensive and somewhat time-consuming to obtain here in the US (though ironically often not as bad as a driver’s license in terms of time requirements).

Similarly, only people below a certain income level will (legitimately) have a SNAP card (because the government won’t issue them to people with a higher income level), people who don’t own a firearm probably don’t have a concealed-carry permit (they don’t need one in 99% of cases, and may not be able to obtain one without registering it to a specific firearm), people who were never in the military won’t have a military ID (for obvious reasons), etc.

And, sometimes, there may simply be some particular quirk for a given person that makes it hard for them to obtain a particular type of ID. For example, I have historically had issues with the proof of residency requirement for state issued IDs where I live because I lack most of the things they assume a ‘normal’ person might have to prove where I live and they require two sources of proof of residency. I’m exceedingly lucky that my state has started accepting online bank statements as proof of residency, otherwise I would have had to spend the time to either get my bank to mail me a physical bank statement, or spent the time and money to get one of certain other types of ID that they accept as proof of residence.

  • Very minor quibble, but this isn't quite true: "people who were never in the military won’t have a military ID." At least hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people have or have had military IDs without ever having been in the military. I am one of those. It's very common for people who work for military contractors to have CACs, especially if they work on base as I did.
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 23:21

The catch with the comparisons about how much it costs to obtain an ID, is that they are often devoid of any other information about costs. This implies that obtaining an ID (which does not have a cost of $0) is somehow disenfranchising, compared to not using any ID at all.

All states require you to register to vote. Most will allow you to register online if you have a state-issued ID (driver license, non-driver ID, etc). This means the state already knows who you are. Otherwise, you have to present documents.

From the NY State voter registration form

Verifying your identity
We’ll try to check your identity before Election Day, through the DMV number (driver’s license number or non-driver ID number), or the last four digits of your social security number, which you’ll fill in below.
If you do not have a DMV or social security number, you may use a valid photo ID, a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check or some other government document that shows your name and address. You may include a copy of one of those types of ID with this form— be sure to tape the sides of the form closed.
If we are unable to verify your identity before Election Day, you will be asked for ID when you vote for the first time.

They're doing two checks: one for identity and one for residency. In other words, to merely register to vote, you must

  1. Obtain this document (if you don't have Internet, someone must print it for you, or get a copy from a state office)
  2. Have a location you consider a residence. Homeless individuals must use the name of a homeless shelter

    The Coalition for the Homeless filed a lawsuit that guaranteed the right to vote to homeless New Yorkers, whether they are living in shelters, in welfare hotels, or on the streets. All you need to do is list the address of the homeless shelter or drop-in center as your residential address

  3. Have documentation proving who you are
  4. Submit the document

All of these involve travel, time and some minimal cost (if not taken by the individual, then by someone on their behalf). This is, more or less, the same for every state.

Then there is public assistance for the poor, which is almost always doled out via Social Security Number. The list for obtaining an SSN is lengthy, requiring two documents an in-person interview if the person is over 12. This is necessary for Medicaid, Social Security Disability, etc. Banks also tend to require one, as does the IRS. Sadly the Social Security card is not a photo ID and not terribly secure either

There are an estimated 47 valid versions of social security cards, making it very difficult to verify the validity of cards based on design, paper quality or security features

The TL;DR is that you are likely going to incur some costs trying to prove who you are to the government (federal or local), regardless of whether you want to vote or not.

What about voting IDs?

Voter ID challenges have been going on for years. There's reason to be skeptical of high numbers of people who both wish to vote and lack a proper ID. Crawford v. Marion County Election Board had this problem

At trial, the plaintiffs were unable to produce any witnesses who claimed they were unable to meet the law's requirements.

Justice Stevens, writing for the majority, said this

The relevant burdens here are those imposed on eligible voters who lack photo identification cards that comply with SEA 483.[11] Because Indiana's cards are free, the inconvenience of going to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, gathering required documents, and posing for a photograph does not qualify as a substantial burden on most voters' right to vote, or represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting. The severity of the somewhat heavier burden that may be placed on a limited number of persons—e.g., elderly persons born out-of-state, who may have difficulty obtaining a birth certificate—is mitigated by the fact that eligible voters without photo identification may cast provisional ballots that will be counted if they execute the required affidavit at the circuit court clerk’s office. Even assuming that the burden may not be justified as to a few voters, that conclusion is by no means sufficient to establish petitioners’ right to the relief they seek.

That number may be greater than zero, but it's hard to estimate exactly how many are truly impacted, mainly because there doesn't seem to be an enormous overlap in people who wish to vote but cannot get a voter ID. For instance, the much maligned Georgia voter ID requirement has been around since 2008. Yet black voters in Georgia are the fastest growing segment of voters in the state

The number of Black registered voters in Georgia increased by about 130,000 between Oct. 11, 2016, and Oct. 5, 2020, the largest increase among all major racial and ethnic groups, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Georgia Secretary of State’s Office data.

If this were really some form of disenfranchisement aimed at minorities, it doesn't seem to be very effective. Some other states have lowered the bar even further by eliminating some of the steepest costs

The Secretary of State’s office has entered an agreement with the Alabama Department of Public Health whereby a free birth or marriage certificate will be provided to the processing or issuing agent when a voter needs one of these documents in order to obtain a free Alabama photo voter ID card.

The ultimate point is that there may be folks who wind up in the category of desiring to vote and lacking an ID, but these should be taken as edge cases and works individually, rather than asserting the system as a whole is somehow aiming to disenfranchise voters.

  • It should be pointed out that if you have a social security number you don't need a photo ID. All you need for ID is the last 4 of your social security number.
    – Joe W
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 19:00
  • 8
    The number of Black registered voters in Georgia increased during a period of fairly intense grass-roots efforts in Georgia to increase Black voter turnout. So, all this figure proves is that voter suppression (e.g. purging voter rolls without notifying those affected) efforts were outpaced by voter turnout initiatives.
    – Juhasz
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 0:10
  • 3
    @Juhasz that article doesn't demonstrate voter suppression. It demonstrates what one political party claims is done for the purpose of voter suppression, a claim the other side vigorously denies and can readily explain in other terms. Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 1:30
  • 2
    @Juhasz Then why not hinder the registration drives? And why haven't these new voters had problems obtaining the necessary ID to vote? Furthermore, the ID laws have been around for 14 years, and black voter turnout has steadily increased. In other words, more than the 2020 cycle accounts for the increase. And voter roll update mistakes happen to Democrats as well
    – Machavity
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 2:39

Not necessarily

Many facts that are given as supporting evidence don't actually prove that some people have a harder time obtaining ID.

  • While some say the combined costs of obtaining ID is between 75-175 dollars, it is important to look at what's included in that estimate. How would you estimate travel fees and waiting time? And who said those fees apply to all poor people? In other words, not all poor people are required to pay these fees. Some might be unable to pay these fees, and something should be done about that, but these fees might well apply only to a small percentage of low-income households. It might be blocking some poor people, but not all poor people. It seems like the estimated fees include expenses that don't apply to everyone and are therefore misleading. An estimate is not an average, and this estimate sounds like it includes fees that shouldn't be included, like travel fees, etc. Even if it was an average, it still doesn't prove that poor people can't get ID because of these fees. An average would reflect the total paid by all communities, not some.

  • Even if 11% of US citizens don't have government ID, what is stopping them from getting ID? That so many Americans don't have ID does not prove that they have a hard time getting it

  • As for travel, people living in rural areas need to travel for various reasons. That's part of living in a remote location and can't be considered a difficulty in obtaining ID specifically.

  • People need to meet more requirements in Texas in order to get concealed weapons permit than to get student ID https://guides.sll.texas.gov/gun-laws/carry-of-firearms. It is possible that some types of ID do not include requirements needed specifically for valid voter ID.

While facts were given, more information is needed to prove that these statistics are due to the reasons provided (namely, that the fees are too high for all poor people, people in rural areas can't get ID because they need to travel, etc.)

  • 11
    This answer feels apologism and doesn't attempt to answer why there is a disparity (indeed it even more ridiculously tries to simply dismiss the idea without explanation).
    – ouflak
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 15:42
  • 10
    This answer doesn't seem to actually provide any evidence that poor people, people of color, and elderly people don't have trouble getting ID. You've basically just listed several pieces of evidence that they do have trouble getting ID, and then asked "but what if this evidence is misleading?" Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 4:17
  • 2
    I didn't give an answer outright, but the lack of real evidence seems to suggest that the answer is no. Otherwise, someone would've provided clear evidence that the requirements were made to prevent certain people from voting. The fact is that no one has done so until now.
    – user41637
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 4:26


For example:

11% of U.S. citizens – or more than 21 million Americans – do not have government-issued photo identification. The presumption cannot be made that these ones are actively working to acquire photo identification. If they have no identification, how do we know they are citizens or that 11% of them don't? (This should be a logic problem in a critical thinking class.)

Voters must incur costs such as paying for birth certificates only if they don't have one to apply for a government-issued ID. Applying for healthcare, welfare, a bus pass, buying liquor, driving any kind of vehicle, all resources one would expect even low-income individuals to require, all require ID.

Young married women whose names have changed cannot be automatically presumed to be poor due to their age. Legal name change programs begin at $29.95 and are self-documenting. Marriage licenses are self-documenting.

The elderly, or those in rural areas without access to a car or public transportation, eat, drink, and tend to life's necessities in order remain in the world of the living, usually with some form of government assistance, requiring them to prove who they are. I grew up without a phone inside the house until my late teens. We always found a way to communicate with the outside world, no matter what. There are numerous low-cost and no-cost transportation resources targeting the low-income and disabled as well.

Nationally, up to 25% of African-American citizens of voting age lack government-issued photo ID, compared to only 8% of whites for the simple fact that government-issued ID is not treated with the same priority. If it were treated with the same priority of maintaining a cell phone which requires ID, wired phone, bus, car, or shoes for one's feet, that percentage would crater. (Another beginner's critical thinking exercise.)

Voters not infrequently have some form of ID but not one of the forms of ID required by Voter ID laws. Nontheless, voting station workers, of which I have been one, tend to be under pressure to accept as flimsy an ID as an expired voting card or even library card by virtue of voting observers who apply tacit as well as active pressure to do so. The real question is, how many voters are actually turned away for lack of acceptable ID? (Another prime assignment for any critical thinking class worth the time to attend.)

States exclude forms of ID in a discriminatory manner. That's because the very act of requiring an ID is a wholly justified discriminatory act by design. Texas for instance allows concealed weapons permits for voting because they are government issued, but does not accept student ID cards because they are not. It is wrong to refuse public assistance IDs, Veterans Affairs ID cards, and state employee ID cards unless they do not have an identifiable photo, which as unreliable a source as urban legend puts forth as being disproportionately held by Black voters.

  • 8
    Welcome to Politics! You seem to be quoting some parts from ohwilleke's asnwer. Please note that it would be much clearer if you used quote markup using the > character so it's clear which parts are your own and which parts are referred from other sources. We also require attribution, so you need to make it clear which parts are quoted and from where.
    – JJJ
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 19:49
  • 12
    I don't see why it's relevant whether the 11% referenced in the first paragraph is actively working to get an ID or not - whatever the reason, they have deemed it not worthwhile. I also don't understand the quibble with the 11% itself. That number comes from a telephone survey of American citizens with a margin of error of +/-2%. You don't need photo ID to prove citizenship, and you can get a reasonable estimate of how many have photo IDs by simply asking them, which is exactly what the survey did. Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 19:55
  • 13
    There are 0 source citation in this answer. Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 22:52
  • 12
    A cell phone does not require ID. The prepaid and pay-as-you-go plans I have had in the US do not ask for ID. Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 0:51
  • 11
    I have never needed an ID to ride a bus. Also, it is physically possible to drive a car without an ID. So the fact that you are required to have a driver's license to drive does not mean that all people without an idea just don't drive. Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 2:19

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .