The new voter ID laws that are being passed in a number of states may be disenfranchising many senior voters. The laws, purportedly enacted to prevent voter fraud, require voters to have a government-issued photo identification card — something nearly one in five seniors lack, according to a study.
Voter ID card laws have been generating a lot of controversy this election year. Over the past year and a half, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee have enacted voter ID laws. Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department has put laws in Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas on hold, and a federal court has unanimously ruled the Texas law cannot be implemented. In addition, a voter ID law in Wisconsin was declared unconstitutional by a state court (the state is appealing the decision). Proponents of the laws argue that the laws prevent voter fraud, but opponents point out that there is little evidence of such fraud and say the ID requirements are overly burdensome.
A valid voter ID card can be a driver’s license, military ID with a photo, or a state-issued ID card. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 18 percent of voters over age 65 do not have a valid ID. The most common form of ID is a driver’s license, but many seniors no longer drive and have given up their licenses. Seniors may also not be able to easily get to the office that is issuing voter ID cards. Once they’ve reached the office, seniors may find they lack the required paperwork. Many seniors have lost birth certificates or were never issued one. While it can be possible to get a voter ID card without a birth certificate, it is a more difficult process.
The AARP along with the League of Women Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union have been challenging these laws in court. Daniel Kohrman, senior attorney for AARP Foundation Litigation said, “We should not be a society where voters are forced to jump through so many hoops in order to vote, particularly if they’ve been voting for decades.”