How New Voter Laws Are Stealing Seniors’ Right to Vote

With election day drawing near, it is important to be aware of voter requirements. This year, some states have enacted new laws which hinder voting for many Americans. In 2013, the Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder allowed states to make changes to voting laws.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 aimed to stop racial discrimination in voting. It contained provisions declaring that states cannot make changes to voting laws on their own. They must receive preclearance from the Department of Justice before making changes. These provisions were overturned in Shelby County v. Holder which questioned the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act.

Currently, states are enacting new voter laws. Citizens are now required to present IDs before allowing them to vote at the polling stations. There are many arguments for and against the implementation of voting laws. Ultimately, voter ID laws hurt citizens, like seniors, instead of protecting them.

Supporters of the Voter ID Law

voting booth

According to supporters of the Voter ID Law, voting laws are necessary to reduce voter fraud. These supporters believe that voter fraud is a huge problem running rampant in the country. Without the creation of these laws, they believe the election can be rigged. Criminals impersonating the deceased, or illegal immigrants with driver’s licenses could influence the election. Attempts to vote multiple times or in the wrong state would also be stopped by voter ID laws.

It is argued that current voting practices aren't fair to actual citizens. Since voters do not have to show an ID, they can commit voter fraud. Many Americans assert that someone engaging in fraud can cancel out an actual citizen's vote.

Since most citizens already have a state issued photo ID, supporters argue that voter ID requirements shouldn’t be an issue. They claim that if you don’t have an ID, it is a simple process to get one.

Supporters also maintain that driving a car or purchasing alcohol requires an ID. They believe something as important as voting for our country’s future should also require a photo ID.

Opponents of the Voter ID Law

i voted sticker

Opponents of voter ID laws argue that the ability to vote is a fundamental right for Americans. As a fundamental right, no one should have restricted access to voting, in any way. Citizens should be encouraged to vote, not given another hurdle to jump through.

Advocates of voter ID laws argue that these laws reduce voter fraud. Yet, many opponents argue voter fraud is not a widespread problem. The United States’ Government Accountability Office (USGAO) reports voter fraud rarely occurs. In USGAO’s review of five studies, they “identified few instances of in-person voter fraud.” This contradicts supporters' claim of rampant voter fraud.

According to critics, getting an ID is not as easy as advocates claim. For many citizens, getting an ID can be a hassle—not to mention costly. Obtaining an ID may typically only cost $10-$30, but there are indirect fees to consider. Indirect fees raise the cost of obtaining an ID. These indirect fees include transportation costs or buying more documents to prove your identity.

In a study by the Brennan Center for Justice, they found nearly 1 in 5 citizens over the age of 65 do not have a current, government-issued photo ID. This means about 8 million citizens don’t have a required picture ID needed for voting.

The Effect on Seniors

seniors voting

Unfortunately, these voter laws have a negative effect on a senior’s ability to vote. In 2008, Indiana’s voter ID law deprived 12 nuns of their right to vote in the primary election. Those nuns, who were in their 80s and 90s, did not have the required picture IDs to vote. Although they were registered citizens, they were barred from participating in their civic duty.

The majority of citizens prove their eligibility to vote with a driver’s license. Many seniors don’t maintain a driver’s license or apply for a state issued ID card. Many seniors stop renewing their licenses because they no longer drive. This gives up their primary form of ID.

Obtaining a new ID can be difficult for seniors. Many seniors have difficulty traveling to the DMV due to disabilities or unreliable transportation.

Once seniors get to a state ID-issuing office, there are even more hurdles to jump through. In order to receive a photo ID, seniors have to provide three forms of identification. One form of identification the state requires is a birth certificate.

The requirement of a birth certificate can make getting an ID difficult for seniors. Many people over the age of 65 lack birth certificates, since they were born before recording births was standard procedure. Without a birth certificate, many seniors have been denied access to new IDs.

Seniors that were issued a birth certificate, but no longer have it, end up having to pay a fee to receive a new one. Some seniors have to travel to the county in which they were born to receive the new birth certificate. This is difficult for seniors who do not have easy means of transportation.

The Effect on America

america vote

Voting is an important aspect of what it means to be an American.  Allowing citizens to be represented in their government is crucial to American values. The new voter ID laws goes against the values America was founded on.

Advocates of voter ID laws say they’re for everyone’s best interests. Yet, it is proven that these laws harm citizens like seniors more than it helps. Seniors continue to fight against these laws. They are one of the largest voting groups of the nation. Everyone deserves to have their voice heard on Election Day.