Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Burdens of new laws for photo IDs at polls could fall heaviest on rural voters

"New laws requiring voters to show a photo identification at the polls could have a disproportionate effect on rural voters," the Daily Yonder says, referring to a New York Times story about new laws in 14 states and a column by Tennessee state Sen. Roy Herron that bemoaned the hardship he says will be caused by a new law in the Volunteer State, using his 94-year-old mother as an example:

"My mother is one of 675,337 Tennesseans age 18 and older who, according to the Department of Safety, either have no driver's license or have a license that does not carry their photo," and his mother's birth certificate has been misplaced so she will have to go through rigamarole and expense to get one before she can get a photo ID, writes Herron, a Democrat from Dresden.

And because not all counties have a drivers' license office, "Some of the rural Tennesseans I represent will have to drive from their county through a second county and into a third to reach the closest driver's license center — a trip of 40 to 60 miles each way. Taking a day off work and with gas averaging $3.58 a gallon, even at minimum wage the expense of travel and lost wages will cost people perhaps an additional $80 to $100 to exercise their constitutional right to vote." (Read more)

Before this year, only two states had photo-ID laws. A Brennan Center for Justice study indicates that the new laws will make it harder for rural, poor, elderly and minority voters to cast ballots next year. the researchers estimate that 5 million voters will be negatively affected. Democrats fear the laws will discourage, or block many voters, especially those in groups that vote mostly Democratic, from voting. The overall impact is still in dispute, and Republicans say laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud, but examples of voter impersonation are hard to find the Times' Michael Cooper reports. The Brennan Center says impersonation fraud at polling places is "extremely rare."

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