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Voter ID laws would take 500,000 eligible voters off rolls, survey says

10:32 AM, Jul 18, 2012   |    comments
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By Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY

A new survey of 10 states that require voters to show government-issued photo identification finds voters in those states could face transportation and financial challenges in obtaining proper IDs.

The new study, published today by the Brennan Center of Justice at the New York University School of Law, notes that nearly 500,000 eligible voters without IDs in those states do not have access to a vehicle and live more than 10 miles from the nearest state ID-issuing office.

The finding bolsters Attorney General Eric Holder's argument-made as recently as last week at the NAACP convention-that the tougher restrictions in some states would require some voters-disproportionately minorities-- to travel great distances and struggle to pay for necessary document to obtain the IDs.

"In our efforts to protect voting rights and to prevent voting fraud, we will be vigilant and strong," Holder told the NAACP. "But let me be clear: we will not allow political pretexts to disenfranchise American citizens of their most precious right."

Tougher voter ID laws have become a central issue ahead of the November elections with opponents arguing that the laws disproportionately affect African-Americans, Latinos and young voters-all critical members of President Obama's base.

Mitt Romney has said that he supports tougher voter ID restrictions as a way to prevent fraud.

The Justice Department has been sued by the states of Texas and South Carolina for blocking implementation of their voter ID laws. The Texas case was heard last week, and a three-judge panel is now deliberating. The South Carolina case is expected to go to trial in August.

About 10% of Americans who are eligible to vote don't have government-issued photo IDs -- including 25% percent of African-Americans, according to the Brennan Center.

Among the Brennan Center's other findings:

More than 1 million eligible voters in the 10 states fall below the federal poverty line and live more than 10 miles from their nearest ID-issuing office. These voters may be particularly affected by the significant costs of the documentation required to obtain a photo ID. Birth certificates can cost between $8 and $25 in those states. Marriage licenses, required for married women whose birth certificates include a maiden name, can cost between $8 and $20. The study notes that the poll tax - outlawed during the civil rights era - cost the equivalent of $10.64 in current dollars.

More than 10 million eligible voters live more than 10 miles from their nearest state ID-issuing office.

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

USA TODAY

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