Thursday, 27 November 2014

Your name’s not down

Laws requiring photo ID could prevent homeless people from voting, says Maria Foscarinis

US special logo

As election season heats up, laws recently enacted in numerous states threaten to disenfranchise some 5 million eligible voters, including many who are poor and homeless.

The new laws require photo identification as a precondition to voting. Proponents argue they are needed to prevent fraud, and that state-issued photo ID is free. But studies show voter fraud is extremely rare and obtaining a state-issued ID can be complicated and expensive.

In Wisconsin, for example, getting a ‘free’ state-issued photo ID requires proving your name and date of birth; identity; citizenship or other appropriate immigration status; and residency. And acceptable proof is neither free nor easy for many to obtain. One of the ways to prove your name and date of birth is with a birth certificate. For those who don’t have one, ordering a birth certificate requires a fee of $20 (£12.40) or more.

Two of the following documents can also be used: a state-issued employee ID, a passport, a cheque book, a credit card, a health insurance card, a lease, a recent utility bill, or a recent traffic ticket. In other words, getting a ‘free’ ID requires having: a job, the possibility of international travel, a bank account, health care, housing, or access to a car.

Wisconsin is one of 44 US states that enacted or considered such laws over the past year. Some have been overturned, but many remain, making it difficult or impossible for many to vote this November. Without access to the ballot box, these Americans will be further marginalised.

Maria Foscarinis is a lawyer and founder and executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

sign in register

Related

Articles

  • Lend us your ears

    23/05/2014

    In its most introspective moments the sector can resemble a teenager bemoaning the fact that ‘nobody understands me’, while its siblings get all the attention.

  • Working on your green message

    15 May 2014

    As government policies swing between green agendas and energy cuts, landlords need to work harder on their messaging, says Chris Huhne

  • Adjust your set

    30 April 2014
  • At your disposal

    14/02/2014

    Social landlords can now challenge the government to release public land

  • Slap down

    2 January 2014

    Tory concerns over planning minister’s rhetoric point to a deeper struggle within the party.

Resources

  • Dragons' Den for retrofit technology

    4 September 2014

    Copying the popular BBC format, Accord Group set up a Dragons’ Den of its own to find the best green technologies to test in a £3m retrofit project. Simon Brandon finds out why

  • A light in the dark

    04/07/2014

    The Lighthouse Project in Wales provides support to those most in need. Reni Eddo-Lodge finds out more

  • Exchanging ideas during job swap

    30/05/2014

    When directors at a Staffordshire-based housing association swapped jobs for seven weeks they ended up learning new skills - and saving money. Helen Clifton reports

  • Need for sustainable drainage

    13 May 2014

    This year’s floods underlined the need to build sustainable drainage systems and if they mimic the natural process of water absorption and dispersion then so much the better, says John Beresford

  • Reaching crisis point

    02/05/2014

    Tenants on the verge of eviction are being helped to remain in their homes by a recently formed social enterprise that is saving their landlords significant sums in the process. Daniel Douglas finds out how

IH Subscription