Friday, September 7, 2012

Increasing Number of States Require Photo Identification for Voting

Controversy over photo identification has been in the news a lot recently, specifically in regard to laws passed by some states that require photo identification when voting. 

These laws, however, will 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 earlier this year 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 that do not currently have identification to use for voting. The NPR article can be found here.  The study can be found here.

The study indicates that going into the 2012 elections, millions of Americans will find that since they last voted, and for many that would be 2008, there are new barriers that could prevent them from voting.  At least thirty-four states introduced legislation that would require voters to show photo identification in order 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 ID, while the remaining 11%, about 3.2 million people, do not. The majority of the 11% without ID fall into one of four categories: the elderly, minorities, the poor and young adults aged 18 to 24. The Brennan Center estimates that 18 percent of all seniors and 25 percent 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 — like 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 IDs they have long had — such as Medicaid cards, Social Security cards or bank cards.
Not to worry.  If you really need a photo ID, NPR reports that many states offer non-driver IDs 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 ID laws, citizens must present birth certificates to obtain new photo IDs.  OK.  If a state does have a person's birth certificate, they often must present a photo ID to obtain a copy.  Oh.  NPR continues its reporting based on the focus on these laws and the impact they have on individuals who find they may not be able to vote.  

Shift to the healthcare setting and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), in a report, “characteristics of Frequent Emergency Department Users” (found here), stated that about 20% of “high emergency department users” are 65 and older, and 37% of emergency department patients are poor and near poor. This reflects a significant part of the population that is unlikely to have a photo ID.

NAHAM News will continue to monitor these state ID laws, but we also welcome your feedback.

If you are in a state that recently passed a voter ID law, are you seeing an increase of patients with photo identification?

Are you confident in the source of non-drive photo IDs?

What about the elderly or poor – do they tend not to have photo IDs?

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