Voter ID Laws and the effect on African American Voters
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) announced that it had registered 5.5 million black voters in 34 states and the District of Columbia as of Oct. 1, and estimated that the black electorate could number as many as 12 million.

In the end, that was about how many blacks turned out, according to census data compiled after the fact: Turnout reached 58.5 percent for an estimated black population of 20.7 million. Data on voting by race isn’t available for years before 1964, but the NAACP estimated at the time that no more than 5 million African-Americans voted in the presidential election of 1960.

Black voters wouldn’t go to the polls at such levels again until President Obama’s first election in 2008, when 60.8 percent of them voted. In 2012, 62 percent turned out for Mr. Obama’s re-election.

Black turnout in presidential years has been steadily increasing since 1996, but it has been generally flat in midterm years and picked back up in 2012 but has since declined once again.

Among the most controversial measures are new voter identification laws. They require voters to produce specific government papers, usually with a photo and an expiration date, to cast a ballot. Let’s be clear: Election integrity is vital. The problem is not requiring voter ID, per se — the problem is requiring ID that many voters simply do not have. Study after study confirms that 1 in 10 eligible voters lack these specific government documents.

Voter ID laws will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of poor Americans to vote. They place a serious burden on a core constitutional right that should be universally available to every American citizen.

Ten states now have unprecedented restrictive voter ID laws. Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin all require citizens to produce specific types of government-issued photo identification before they can cast a vote that will count. Legal precedent requires these states to provide free photo ID to eligible voters who do not have one.

Unfortunately, these free IDs are not equally accessible to all voters. This report is the first comprehensive assessment of the difficulties that eligible voters face in obtaining free photo ID.

The 11 percent of eligible voters who lack the required photo ID must travel to a designated government office to obtain one. Yet many citizens will have trouble making this trip. In the 10 states with restrictive voter ID laws:
  • Nearly 500,000 eligible voters do not have access to a vehicle and live more than 10 miles from the nearest state ID-issuing office open more than two days a week. Many of them live in rural areas with dwindling public transportation options.

  • More than 10 million eligible voters live more than 10 miles from their nearest state ID-issuing office open more than two days a week.

  • 1.2 million eligible black voters and 500,000 eligible Hispanic voters live more than 10 miles from their nearest ID-issuing office open more than two days a week. People of color are more likely to be disenfranchised by these laws since they are less likely to have photo ID than the general population.

Sources include: brennancenter.org and nytimes.com
 

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