Study Suggests Voter ID Laws Include Obstacles That Could Dissuade Poor From Voting

David Carlson

A recent study has found that the voter ID laws recently passed in ten states have some hidden costs that might dissuade low earners from voting.

Newser reports that the new laws, which would require voters to present a valid ID before voting, could discourage low-income voters lacking the money or transportation necessary to comply with new voter requirements (i.e., the obtaining of an ID). The Brennan Center at the New York University's Law School, which opposes the voter ID laws, conducted the study and found that roughly 500 thousand voters across the ten states do not have access to a vehicle and live more than ten miles away from the nearest ID-issuing office. Also, some ID offices require birth certificates or marriage licenses, and if a voter does not have a copy of one of these documents they would need to pay for a new one.

The Washington Post reports that birth certificates can cost from $8 to $25, and marriage licenses can run from $8 to $20 for voters needing to purchase a copy of one or both documents. "By comparison, the notorious poll tax - outlawed during the civil rights era - cost $10.64 in current dollars," argues the report, and somewhat misleadingly at that since poll taxes varied by state and it's unclear how the authors obtained that number.

The study also examines the limited accessibility of some ID-issuing offices, noting that some in rural areas are only open part-time, and one, in Sauk City, Wisconsin, is bizarrely only open on the fifth Wednesday of any month (that'd be four days a year).

Keesha Gaskins, co-author of the report, had this to say of the laws and the study: “The advocates of these laws kept saying we’re going to provide these IDs for free and that’s going to eliminate all of the problems...We found the ability to get documents isn’t that simple. The documents are costly for many, many voters and there are serious transportation barriers for many voters. We just found really significant problems."