Photo ID Laws

Photo ID laws affect all voters in the states and districts that have them, but they disproportionately impact Black, Latinx, Native American, newly naturalized citizens and disabled voters, as well as youth and the elderly.

These laws have a direct effect at polling places, but photo ID laws also may have the negative effect of reducing the number of people voting due to fear of being rejected at their polling place.

Costs of Identification

The cost of a photo ID sometimes ranges between $14.50 and $58.50, significantly discouraging to poorer community members. Many older voters are eligible for free state photo IDs, but if getting an ID requires a birth certificate, that can cost up to $26. People who have changed their names, such as after marriage, must produce a marriage certificate costing about $10 or more in Minnesota.

In Minnesota, many of our aging population born in rural areas of the state pre-1934 did not always receive a complete birth certificate. It may also be difficult to learn where to get a certificate. Today, birth certificate information is usually found online. For instance, visiting The Department of Health website will provide the basic information required to obtain a birth certificate in Minnesota.

Voter ID Origins

Voting ID laws have been around for many years, starting with South Carolina in 1950, Hawaii in 1970, Texas in 1971, Florida in 1977 and Alaska in 1980. Approximately 11% of U.S. citizens, around 21 million people, don’t have the government-issued photo ID that some states require to vote. If a voter does not have a valid photo ID, they can cast a provisional ballot A ballot that will only be submitted if the voter presents a valid ID within a certain amount of time.

Justification of Voter ID

Voter ID laws have been put in place in states across the country in part because of claims of “voter fraud.” The only voter fraud prevented by a voter ID occurs when  an individual impersonates someone else in order to try and cast a ballot. But statistics show that there is almost no voter fraud like this.

Out of the 197 million votes cast for federal candidates between 2002 and 2005, only 40 voters were indicted for voter fraud, according to a Department of Justice study outlined during a 2006 Congressional hearing. Only 26 of those cases, or about .00000013 percent of the votes cast, resulted in convictions or guilty pleas.

Opposition to Voter ID

Many progressive organizations oppose voter ID laws and have lobbied to defeat passage or to change the law. The reason for the opposition is that more people are disenfranchised by requiring a voter ID vs. the actual number of cases of voter fraud, which is the primary reason cited for passing such legislation.

Voter ID laws are not just opposed by political organizations, they are also opposed by churches, judges and students.

Evidence shows that voter impersonation fraud is statistically negligible, yet since the Shelby v. Holder decision, states across the country have passed laws making it harder to vote through restrictive voter ID requirements, as well as through the elimination of early voting and same-day registration opportunities.