Missouri’s state legislature this week may well vote to put an amendment to the state constitution on the ballot requiring proof of citizenship from anyone registering to vote. The proposal is even more restrictive and threatening to the right to vote than Indiana’s law, which requires a government-issued photo ID and was recently upheld by the Supreme Court.
Showing ID has become commonplace for many Americans: It’s required to board an airplane, open a bank account, or enter a government facility. But even as showing ID becomes more widespread, the ID divide grows wider between those who have IDs and those who do not, including 20 million voting age Americans who do not have driver’s licenses.
The costs of proving citizenship, or even obtaining ID, are anything but free. And the benefits of requiring an ID to vote—ostensibly as a means to prevent voter fraud—are anything but proven. The evidence of widespread voter fraud is nonexistent, and the effects of fraud are insignificant. Yet laws meant to prevent this non-problem are proliferating—preventing thousands of American citizens from exercising their right to vote.
The By the Numbers below shows just how costly these requirements can be for those who can least afford them:
How much does it cost to get a driver’s license or prove citizenship?
$45: Fee for a six-year driver’s license in Missouri. A non-driver’s identification card costs $11.
$15: Cost of a birth certificate, the most commonly used document to obtain a driver’s license, in Missouri.
$100: Cost of a passport, as of February 1, 2008. Obtaining other forms of citizenship documentation can cost even more (up to $460 for a citizenship application). Any form of documentation can take months to process.
25: Number of states, including Missouri, that require some form of identification be presented at the polls. Seven of those, including Indiana, require or can request photo ID.
Who do voter ID requirements affect?
12: Nuns, all in their 80s and 90s, who were turned away from an Indiana polling place last Tuesday during that state’s presidential primary because they didn’t have government-issued photo ID.
20 million: Voting age Americans who currently lack a valid driver’s license, including roughly 10 percent of eligible voters.
25 percent: Voting-age African Americans nationwide who have no government-issued photo ID. That’s compared to 8 percent of white Americans who lack state or federal photo ID.
36 percent: Georgians over the age of 75 who have no driver’s license, according to the state’s AARP.
How do citizenship proof requirements affect voters?
13 million: U.S. citizens who lack documentary proof of citizenship (a passport, birth certificate, or other documentation).
38,000: Number of voter registration applications that Arizona has thrown out since the state adopted a proof-of-citizenship requirement in 2004. More than 70 percent of those reportedly came from people who stated under oath that they were born in the United States.
240,000: Number of registered Missouri voters who stand to be disenfranchised by the proposed citizenship requirement, as estimated by Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.
Poorly designed ID systems can lead to increased rates of identity theft.
8.3 million: Americans who were victims of identity theft in 2005, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
26 million: Records lost when the home of a Veteran’s Administration employee was robbed.
Despite claims to the contrary, voter fraud is nonexistent.
40: Number of voters indicted – not prosecuted and convicted – by the Justice Department for registration fraud or illegal voting between October 2002 and September 2005. More than half, 21, were not citizens.
Unfortunately, Missouri’s state legislature is not alone in falling for false propaganda peddled by conservatives seeking to further confuse the electoral process and to suppress voting. Other states are following the lead of conservative legislatures in Georgia and Indiana in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision upholding voter ID requirements. Progressives need to inform voters across the nation of the costs and the consequences of these policies to our citizens and to our democracy.