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This article at pbs.org seems to indicate that getting a free Voter ID in a state can cost as much as $25.

Voting law advocates contend these laws disproportionately affect elderly, minority and low-income groups that tend to vote Democratic [sic]. Obtaining photo ID can be costly and burdensome, with even free state ID requiring documents like a birth certificate that can cost up to $25 in some places.

I cannot seem to rectify that claim with this Voter ID laws by state, where every state seems to have an option to provide proof of eligibility that doesn't require any money.

Is this claim a misrepresentation of Voter ID requirements? (I.e. The claims are:)

  • These [VoterID] laws disproportionately affect elderly, minority and low-income groups

  • Obtaining photo ID can be costly and burdensome (where costly is defined as "$25", and burdensome is defined as "unable to vote due to the requirement of obtaining iD")

(I.e. Are anti-VoterID advocates just claiming that birth certificates can cost as much as $25. Voter ID laws require documents, an example of which is a birth certificate or utility bill, and they are just using the more expensive example.)

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No state requires paying a fee to vote. If you are unable to pay the required costs associated with obtaining the documentation to prove you can legally vote (indigent), then those fees are waived. If you are unable to travel to vote, you can always vote absentee, and similarly those people are exempt from providing supporting documentation.

Since a majority of states use the following forms of identification, "A copy of a current Utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter." This has been abbreviated to HAVA2002. All 50 states use Help America Vote Act 2002 as a minimum for voter identification in Federal elections (president, senators, house of representatives, etc.).

Regarding the cost of getting to the County Registrar's office. This argument is specious, especially with respect to Georgia, which Michael Kingsmill specifically used as an example in his comments before they were deleted. The Georgia Voter ID law was challenged in court. Georgia's SoS, Brian Kemp, who is required to investigate voter fraud notes that the law has withstood challenges in four courts. In one of those cases, the NAACP claimed, "a large number of Georgia voters lack acceptable Photo ID.." They failed to produce any plaintiffs that were incapable of going to their local registrar's office (all of them made trips of similar length on occasion). So, the court ruled that Photo ID requirement doesn't place an undue or significant burden on the right to vote:

As the Rokita court noted, voters who lack Photo ID undoubtedly exist somewhere, but the fact that Plaintiffs, in spite of their efforts, have failed to uncover anyone "who can attest to the fact that he/she will be prevented from voting" provides significant support for a conclusion that the Photo ID requirement does not unduly burden the right to vote.

Voter ID laws by state (Free Alternatives listed)

  • Alabama: HAVA2002. Social Security card, Medicaid/Medicare card, electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card. (Photocopies also accepted).
  • Alaska HAVA2002.
  • Arizona: Any 2; Utility bill, bank statement, vehicle registration, property tax statement, vehicle insurance card, any US goverment issued identification including a voter registration card, any mailing marked "Official Election Material".
  • Arkansas: HAVA2002
  • California: HAVA2002, or provide the last 4 digits of your SS# (or you will be assigned a unique number) on the voter registration form.
  • Colorado HAVA2002 or Medicare/Medicad card.
  • Connecticut HAVA2002 required for first time voters, otherwise not required.
  • Delaware HAVA2002
  • Florida: Under the Myths vs. Facts it explains that, "A person who votes provisionally simply because he or she forgot ID at the polls will not have to do anything else. If the signatures on that ballot certificate and the voter roll matches, the provisional ballot is counted."
  • Georgia Voter registration application, Copy of Federal/State tax return, annual Social Security Statement, Medicare/Medicaid statement, certified school record, or other government document with the voter name and address.
  • Hawaii: HAVA2002 either during registration, or at the polls.
  • Idaho Only need to sign a Personal Identification Affidavit.
  • Illinois: HAVA2002 for first time voters, otherwise not required.
  • Indiana Exemptions for the indigent, religious objections, and those living in state-licensed facilities that serve as their precinct's polling place. Free State IDs are also available.
  • Iowa No photo ID, except for same day registrants. ($5 State ID)
  • Kansas Provides for free birth certificates, free photographic identification, and free state voter identification document.
  • Kentucky SS card, credit card, personal acquaintance, or other photo id that bears a signature.
  • Louisiana HAVA2002 and sign an affidavit. Free Special IDs.
  • Maine No photo ID requirement.
  • Maryland HAVA2002, last 4 digits SS#.
  • Massachusetts HAVA2002 first time voters.
  • Michigan Affidavit if you have no photo id on you.
  • Minnesota HAVA2002, same day registration possible with oath from another registered voter, a valid registration under a different name or address, etc.
  • Mississippi HAVA2002 for first time voters.
  • Missouri HAVA2002 for first time voters.
  • Montana HAVA2002 or last for digits of SS#
  • Nebraska HAVA2002 for first time voters.
  • Nevada Matching signature to voter registration.
  • New Hampsire Photo ID, or sign affidavit that you don't have one and get free ID from DMV.
  • New Jersey HAVA2002 for first time voters.
  • New Mexico HAVA2002 for first time voters.
  • New York HAVA2002.
  • North Carolna HAVA2002 for first time voters.
  • North Dakota Sign an affidavit.
  • Ohio HAVA2002
  • Oklahoma Sign affidavit and/or receive free Voter ID card.
  • Oregon HAVA2002
  • Pennsylvania Asked, but not required to show ID. VoterID law, still in Penn. Supreme Court.
  • Rhode Island Health Club ID, Bus Pass, Public Housing ID, Employee ID, or Free Voter ID.
  • South Carolina HAVA2002 for first time voters. Voter registration card.
  • South Dakota Photo ID, or sign a personal affidavit.
  • Tennessee Clearly exempts voters who are living in assited living homes, hospitalized, have religious objections to photographs, and the indigent. ($9.50 State ID)
  • Texas HAVA2002, but parts of a new law will be heard by the Supreme Court Feb. 27, 2013.
  • Utah HAVA2002 in 2 forms, including SS card, vehicle registration, or Medicaid/Medicare card.
  • Vermont HAVA2002 for first time voters.
  • Virginia HAVA2002 for first time voters. Voter registration card, or employer issued ID.
  • Washington HAVA2002,
  • West Virginia HAVA2002 for first time voters.
  • Wisconsin The photo ID requirement is under appeal. Free ID cards are available.
  • Wyoming HAVA2002 or SS card.
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    It's kind of insane that they'll accept a utility bill, given that I could probably find 5 of them while walking my dog. Not saying I would, but common. Mailboxes are just sitting out at the street untended, all day, and by very nature immediately identifiable by voting district. – erich2k8 Nov 12 '16 at 0:45
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    However, many states have restrictive requirements for supporting documentation that require huge costs and logistical obstacles in order to get the "free" ID. But the answer/questioner knew that before posting both the question, and then the answer to his/her own question, and choosing his/her own answer as the "best." Kind of a phony question, and more of a rant/statement being made. -1 for disingenuousness. – PoloHoleSet May 25 '17 at 13:19
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    @PoloHoleSet: Asking and self-answering a question is not considered "phony" on StackExchange, but explicitly encouraged. Of course, both question and answer still must satisfy the usual requirements. If you feel the question is asked in a misleading fashion, or that the answer glosses over important points, use the usual mechanisms (comment, downvote, another answer...). – sleske Sep 21 '17 at 8:40
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    @sleske - You are responding to a comment I made, so instructing me to "use the usual mechanisms," like commenting, is kind of idiotic, since that's exactly what I did. I was not complaining just about asking/answering, but the fact that the question was posed so a factually inaccurate and misleading answer could be put out there, and then, not based on merit, be selected as "best." I commented, and I down-voted, months before your instructions to do so. I did not vote to close. – PoloHoleSet Sep 21 '17 at 13:10
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    This answer is factually inaccurate and misleading. The burdens to getting voter ID are substantial as illustrated by several other answers. – ohwilleke Mar 19 '18 at 4:04
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The difficulty you are having with squaring the burden to getting a photo ID with the fact that "...every state seems to have an option to provide proof of eligibility that doesn't require any money" is because it is not accurate to say that every state has an alternative to the photo ID.

Looking more closely at the NCSL source that you quoted in the question, you can see that Georgia, Tennessee, and Kansas fall into the category of "Strict Photo" and will accept only a photo ID before counting someone's vote. It is true that each state will allow the voter to cast a provisional ballot if they did not have the ID with them at the time of voting, but they each require the voter to show proof of the photo ID within several days of the election in order for the ballot to be counted. From the NCSL's analysis:

Kansas:

A voter who is unable or refuses to provide current and valid identification may vote a provisional ballot.

To have his or her ballot counted, the voter must provide a valid form of identification to the county election officer in person or provide a copy by mail or electronic means before the meeting of the county board of canvassers.

Tennessee:

If a voter is unable to present the proper evidence of identification, then the voter will be entitled to vote by provisional ballot in the manner detailed in the bill. The provisional ballot will only be counted if the voter provides the proper evidence of identification to the administrator of elections or the administrator's designee by the close of business on the second business day after the election.

Georgia:

If you show up to vote and you do not have one of the acceptable forms of photo identification, you can still vote a provisional ballot. You will have up to three days after the election to present appropriate photo identification at your county registrar's office in order for your provisional ballot to be counted.


With this in mind, looking at the real costs of obtaining a photo ID, we can see costs easily reach or pass the $25 threshold you highlighted. If you are a voter without a valid photo ID in one of these states the first challenge would be getting to the state license office to request one. A report from the Brennen Center and summarized in this Washington Post article found in an analysis of the 10 most restrictive states that:

nearly half a million eligible voters in the 10 states do not have access to a vehicle and live more than 10 miles from their nearest state ID-issuing office.

In addition to finding transportation to the office, they would need to schedule a time when they are not at work or other obligation AND when the office was open. The same report found that:

Rural areas in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas are served by part-time ID offices. And in an extreme example, the researchers found the office in Sauk City, Wis., is open only on the fifth Wednesday of any month. That would limit the office to being open just four days this year.

Finally, there is the cost of the documentation to secure the ID itself.

The report said birth certificates can cost between $8 and $25. Marriage licenses, required in some states for married women whose birth certificates include a maiden name, can cost between $8 and $20.

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    <comments removed> Please keep comments focused on improving the post and try to not to turn comment threads into miniature chat rooms and debates. If you feel you can provide a better answer, please do so. Thanks. – yannis Jan 30 '13 at 17:53
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    @DVK Marriage licenses are not free. Their cost varies greatly by state (and even from city to city), but they almost always cost money. This site breaks down the cost by jurisdiction. – Michael Kingsmill Jan 30 '13 at 19:26
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    @MichaelKingsmill - Sorry, what I meant to say was that they are free if you are already married. There's no additional cost that an applicant for voter ID must pay, e.g. for a special "just for voter ID" copy. If you aren't already married, then you didn't change your pre-married name, and you don't need the marriage license for voter ID. The only time you have to pay is if you lost yours - but it's disingeuous to count the cost of marriage license into the cost of voter ID just on the account of someone who didn't bother keeping their original. – user4012 Jan 30 '13 at 19:27
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    @DVK. Didn't bother? You try keeping a marriage license safe when you're homeless; tell me how well it works for you. – TRiG Jan 30 '13 at 22:58
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    "There are costs to everything" = but the point that was being made that if you require voter IDs, there are now more costs to voting than there were before. – user1530 Oct 31 '13 at 23:26
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It can cost a lot more than $25 even to get a "free" voter ID.

Based on a spelling or transcription error decades ago, this man paid hundreds of dollars to try and have the required documentation for his "free" ID, and was never able to vote.

Bill Moyers - a black man brought three forms of ID to the polls in Wisconsin. He still couldn't vote

Add to that the availability and restrictiveness of the ID, and the kind of burden that can represent to (racially disparately) poor voters, who may lack convenient transportation or the kind of employment that allows them to take the kind of time off they need to, and the burden can go far beyond a $25 figure.

Furthermore, not only do they have this disproportionate impact, an appeals court ruled they they were intentionally designed to do exactly that. The Supreme Court refused to take an appeal on that specific case regarding the North Carolina laws, so one can accurately say that this particular finding is the accepted law of the land, approved to the highest levels of our judiciary.

Bloomberg: US Supreme Court Refuses To Revive North Carolina Voter-ID Law

  • This is anecdotal based upon getting your birth records fixed, not the cost of a voter ID. And what does the NC decision have to do with the cost at all? – K Dog May 24 '17 at 22:23
  • @KDog the question opened up the can of worms essentially asking about potential costs to obtain a voter ID. Yes, this is anecdotal, but is exactly the type of challenges the OP's quote was alluding to. The NC ruling pertains to this issue because that was a clear case of Voter ID laws being used to specifically target a particular demographic...which happens to be one and the same that would be affected by additional fiscal hurdles to access voting. – user1530 May 24 '17 at 23:12
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    @KDog - he would have no need to get his birth record "fixed" if it were not for being denied the vote. He'd been living, working, and voting his entire life without incident. It is only because, as a completely eligible voter, he was being denied his legitimate right to vote by the Voter ID laws that any of this was necessary. It is absolutely a cost solely incurred by the Voter ID requirements. To pretend otherwise is simply dishonest. – PoloHoleSet May 25 '17 at 13:14
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    @blip - also, this is considerably less anecdotal than the "problem" Voter ID claims to be addressing. – PoloHoleSet May 25 '17 at 14:05
  • @PoloHoleSet an excellent point! – user1530 May 25 '17 at 14:56
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Do “free” Voter IDs cost $25 in any state?

No. As your answer points out, there is no direct fee for a voter ID.

Is this claim a misrepresentation of Voter ID requirements?

No. The claim you are quoting is not saying anything about the direct fee for a voter ID. It's talking about the associated costs in collecting the paperwork required to get the free voter ID. In that elderly, minority and low-income groups are less likely to have these documents, they are correct in that voter ID laws will be more of a hassle for these groups than others.

Are anti-VoterID advocates just claiming that birth certificates can cost as much as $25

No. They are claiming that there can be costs involved with obtaining a voter ID.

EDIT: Based on your comments, it appears you are also asking:

Is there a potential indirect cost in obtaining the needed documents to get a voter ID in each state?

The quoted comment is referencing birth certificates.

Doing a google search for "cost of obtaining a birth certificate by state" the first few links take you to state's info on the cost of obtaining a birth certificate (I'm not going to research all 50).

Wisconsin: $20 Alabama: $15 Mississippi: $15 New York: $30

So using only birth certificate as an example, yes, there could be a fee involved if a) a person doesn't have a copy of their birth certificate and b) they need it to get an Photo ID in their state to vote.

Now, do they need a birth certificate to get a voter ID? I don't know. We'd have to look at the voter ID laws (active and proposed) to see the set of documents required.

You quote HAVA2002 in your answer, but note that is not a Photo ID law. The Photo ID laws are a separate issue.

So, to answer the question as to whether or not the comment was a 'misrepresentation' we'd need to know what Photo ID laws the comment was referring to.

If said laws make no requirement of needing to obtain a document that requires a fee, then yes, that would be a misrepresentation.

  • @user1873 you are asking a very specific question in these comments. But you did not ask that in your question. Are you asking "Is there a potential indirect cost in obtaining the needed documents to get a voter ID in each state?" – user1530 Nov 1 '13 at 0:37
  • @user1873 OK, I've edited the answer to try and address your comments, though I still would suggest you make the question a bit more direct if that is what you are looking for. – user1530 Nov 1 '13 at 1:08
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    let us continue this discussion in chat – user1530 Nov 1 '13 at 1:17
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    At this point, you want a definitive answer to an opinion based question. That's not going to happen. And is exactly why these types of questions don't belong here. I don't know what your agenda is, but there are so many other sites that you could be engaging in political debate if that's your goal. A Q&A site just doesn't fit that model. – user1530 Nov 1 '13 at 4:00
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    Although, strictly speaking, by participating in this frame - we've already lost. – LateralFractal Nov 1 '13 at 14:44

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