The Alabama Legislature this year, under new Republican control, took Alabama’s voter ID law one step further by requiring people to show not just documentation but also photographic proof of their identity before being allowed to vote. The new law takes effect in 2014 and was promoted by Republicans as a tool to ensure honest elections.
Alabama of course followed the course of other GOP-controlled states across the country on this issue. A new report shows the real reason for this type legislation; “fraud” is a smoke-screen and talking point.
The study attempts to quantify the number of largely “young, minority, and low-income” — that is, mostly Democratic — voters who will find it “significantly harder” to cast ballots in 2012, and puts a figure on it: 5 million.
That top-line includes a number of different cases and arguments, and isn’t really all that useful. . . .The harder — and largest — numbers are the ones concerning people who don’t have the sort of ID — like drivers licences — required, and may not bother to make the extra effort to obtain special voting identification. (Again, not all of these people were ever going to vote, so the numbers are soft, but offer a sense of scale.)
Here’s the study’s summary of those, most of whom aren’t in battleground states for national politics:
1. 3.2 million voters affected by new photo ID laws. New photo ID laws for voting will be in effect for the 2012 election in five states (Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin), which have a combined citizen voting age population of just under 29 million. 3.2 million (11 percent) of those potential voters do not have state-issued photo ID….
2. 240,000 additional citizens and potential voters affected by new proof of citizenship laws. New proof of citizenship laws will be in effect in three states (Alabama, Kansas, Tennessee), two of which will also have new photo ID laws. Assuming conservatively that those without proof of citizenship overlap substantially with those without state-issued photo ID, we excluded those two states. The citizen voting age population in the remaining state (Alabama) is 3.43 million; 240,000 (7 percent) of those potential voters do not have documentary proof of citizenship.
A large part of these 240,000 are elderly. A State Senator from Tennessee details the typical situation into which many of those in Alabama will find themselves.
When my 94-year-old mother was born, women were not allowed to vote. But then Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment, and for seven decades Mother has voted faithfully. This year, many of my Republican colleagues in the Legislature took away that right when they made it harder for her — and as many as 675,000 other Tennesseans — to continue to vote.
Ironically, all but seven legislators from the party that supposedly favors less government passed a law requiring my mother to obtain a “big-government” photo identity card in order to vote. When the law goes into effect with the March 2012 presidential primary, poll workers will no longer accept her voter registration card as sufficient proof of identity.
Mother has not driven in at least two decades, so she has no driver’s license. But when she is pushed in her wheelchair to the polls, not one election worker will mistake her for another 94-year-old trying to vote.
My mother is one of 675,337 Tennesseans age 18 and older who, according to the Department of Safety, either have no driver’s license or have a license that does not carry their photo. These citizens may be registered to vote, but unless they obtain a photo ID from a driver’s license station or can produce another type of government-issued photo ID that the new law accepts (such as a military ID or a passport), they will not be allowed to vote.
One cannot get a government ID from the state Department of Safety without producing a “primary proof of identity,” most commonly a birth certificate. Not surprisingly, my mother’s 1916 birth certificate has been misplaced. So she and thousands of other registered voters like her will have to get new birth certificates, which is where the next problem arises.
To apply for a birth certificate, my mother must either travel to the state Department of Health’s Office of Vital Records in Nashville, submit her request online or telephone the office. Traveling nearly halfway across the state is not feasible for many elderly, disabled, mobility-challenged, poor or employed Tennesseans. My mother and thousands of other Tennesseans are not computer literate, so they cannot order a birth certificate online.
I recently asked Annie Prescott, a Nashville attorney, to navigate the third option — a phone call to the Office of Vital Records. She spent the better part of an hour on the phone trying to speak to a live person. Over 15 menu options offered by a series of recorded messages led to three busy signals and four hang-ups. Finally, Prescott got a real person on the phone who instructed her to call a company that charges an additional $15 to process the $15 request, plus $5 to expedite service.
So the total cost of what is supposed to be a free state-issued photo ID card so far is $35, not counting the long-distance phone charges. And applicants still have to take the birth certificate to a driver’s license testing station, where they may have to wait in line for hours.
Only 43 of Tennessee’s 95 counties have such centers. Eleven counties represented by seven Republicans who voted against this bill, including six from East Tennessee, don’t have them. Some of the rural Tennesseans I represent will have to drive from their county through a second county and into a third to reach the closest driver’s license center — a trip of 40 to 60 miles each way. Taking a day off work and with gas averaging $3.58 a gallon, even at minimum wage the expense of travel and lost wages will cost people perhaps an additional $80 to $100 to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
This cost of this process— in many cases totaling $110 to $135 or more — is such a burden that for many it will amount to disenfranchisement.
Some claim this legislation is necessary to prevent voter fraud, citing a state Senate election in Memphis in 2005 in which votes were recorded from two deceased people. But the fact is that the culprits in that case were dishonest election workers, not voters. Photo ID cards would not solve that problem.
My family will do what’s necessary so mother can continue to vote. But what about the other mothers and fathers, the blind, the hearing-impaired, the disabled, the elderly, the poor and the working people who already struggle to pay their bills, much less these new “poll taxes” of $100 or more to meet the requirements of the photo ID law?
I’m not opposed to voters having photo IDs, but I am opposed to taking away the right to vote through a bureaucratic system of poll taxes. People have died trying to register to vote. Now even those who are registered may still be denied the right to vote.
In Alabama in order to obtain a identification card, this 94 year old lady grandmother would need produce to a local DMV (after waiting in line):
- Two forms of identification, at least one of which contains a photograph (one form must be from the “primary” list, in addition to the Social Security card) or three forms of non-photo identification (one form must be from the “primary” list, in addition to the Social Security card).
- Social Security card, and
- $23.50 to purchase license (no checks).
- Certified U.S. Birth Certificate issued by an agency designated by state or federal authority.
- US Passport (current)
- Alabama Identification Card
- Alabama Driver License
- Certificate of Naturalization
- Certificate of Citizenship
- US Certificate of Birth Abroad
- Resident Alien Card
- Valid Foreign Passport with a valid United States Immigration Document
- U.S. State Issued Driver License or
- Non- Driver ID Card
- Current International Driver License/Permit
- Marriage License
- US Armed Forces Driver License
- US Military DD-214
- Professional License Issued by a State or Federal Agency
- Selective Service Card
- Veterans Administration
- Medical Insurance ID Card United States Military ID Card
- ID card issued by School with Photo
- School Enrollment Form (DL-1/93)
- Certified School Record Current Transcript
- Most recent report card
- Certified Letter from School
- GED Certificate
- Certificate of Graduation
- W2 Tax Form along with a copy of the previous year’s filed tax forms
- Documents from Court of Record (Divorce Decree, Adoption Decree, Name Change Decree, Bankruptcy Decree.)
(BTW, if an 18 year old wants to register to vote, in addition to the above, they will need to also produce an acceptable school enrollment form or proof of graduation (if younger than 19 and applying for the first time)