To cast a ballot in Michigan, a voter is supposed to have a valid photo identification. But obtaining a state-approved photo ID can be an arduous task, especially for the poor, minorities, the elderly and the homeless.
A report published today by Bridge Magazine reveals that in the 34 states where photo ID is an absolute requirement, the barriers to compliance can block millions from voting. The most basic form of ID in the U.S., a current driver license, is something that an extraordinary number of people lack.
Overall, identification deficiency is a stunningly common problem, with as many as 1 in 10 Americans without a government-issued ID.
Bridge’s Joel Kurth reports that fears of voter fraud, terrorism and identity theft leave many government officials reluctant to ease requirements to get IDs to vote.
In Michigan, voters without a photo ID can still cast a ballot by filling out an affidavit at their polling place that swears to their identity. But remedying this problem means that people in this state need four types of ID, such as a Social Security card, a birth certificate, a passport, a marriage license or a bank statement, to obtain a state ID card. The process can be lengthy, frustrating and expensive.
Here’s a small portion of Kurth’s in-depth piece:
Those who work with the poor say IDs have value beyond the voting booth ‒ they are the first step to escaping deep poverty and unlocking basic amenities. Getting a job. Opening a bank account. Signing a lease. Applying for government benefits. Sometimes even going to a homeless shelter. All require ID.
“… You need ID to get ID,” said Greg Markus, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Michigan and an organizer with Detroit Action Commonwealth, a social services agency which guides about 25 people per week through the process of getting IDs, including Tucker.
“You need a Social Security card to get a state ID,” Markus said. “You need a state ID to get a Social Security card. You need a birth certificate to get a state ID. So where do you start?”