Today’s Super Tuesday primary involves 10 states and 437 delegates at stake for the Republican Party’s presidential prospects. There are two states among that crop that are worth taking a look at: Georgia and Tennessee. Both are emblems for a growing, and troubling, legislative trend in which new election laws mandate citizens to produce photo identification to vote, ask people to prove their citizenship to vote, or outright curtail voter registration efforts.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, as many as five million eligible voters could meet difficulties this Election Day due to these new, imposing voter laws.
There are currently eight states with photo voter ID laws containing specific criteria for what qualifies as “identification” for voting purposes. Some states require that identification be state-issued and only for the state a person is voting in; some prohibit college IDs; some demand that the full name and address on the card be current; while some require that an ID card has an expiration date.
Looking at those stipulations, it’s not hard to imagine how low-income citizens, African Americans, Latino Americans, college students, and elderly voters—groups the Brennan Center has identified as the most burdened by new voter laws—might get tangled up on voter day. The Center estimates that as many as 11 percent of eligible voters lack proper identification right now. For African Americans, it’s 25 percent—that’s 5.5 million voting-age black Americans who could get turned away at the polls for being undocumented and unphotographed.
Other groups like Native Americans, transgendered people, newly divorced, newly married couples or people who’ve recently lost their homes could all have information on their drivers licenses that reflect names, addresses and faces that aren’t current. The costs for these groups will be more than an inconvenience: fees for new birth and marriage certificates, hours lost waiting in lines for updated materials and transportation costs to handle it all.
How did we get to this point? Let’s just say the emergence of these laws are no coincidence. Thousands of Republicans from dozens of states didn’t all just wake up one day and decide we need an ID card to vote. And yet almost every voter ID law now in play or pending happened in the last four years—since Barack Obama ran for and became the nation’s first black president.