Voter Suppression Threat: Voter ID Laws

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When it comes to the United States election, whether primary or general, each state has their own way of including, or even excluding, their citizens. Many states do a great job of including their people, making it easy for them to vote. Some do not, and the rules and regulations affect people of certain races, ages and other demographics. 

One of the greatest issues at hand that America is dealing with in terms of the elections coming up is voter identification laws. Basically, voter ID laws are decided on the state level. The decisions of these states will affect millions of Americans, with some not being able to vote. 

But why would certain states not want you to vote?

There are many different ways that a state can disenfranchise its citizens. One is by eliminating their ability to vote. And when citizens can’t vote, they can’t ask for a change. They can’t bring about any kind of justice. 

Historically, our nation has witnessed voter suppression tactics aimed at interfering with certain citizens’ ability to vote. For example, for the longest time, we know that women couldn’t vote and people of color couldn’t vote. Silencing the voices of citizens was done for political advantage. 

One of the most influential Supreme Court decisions that changed our policies was the Shelby County v. Holder case in 2013. Prior to this ruling, dating back to 1965, it was ruled that certain states could not pass any laws that denied any citizens of their right to vote. These states, like Alabama, Texas, Florida and Georgia have a history of discriminatory laws that prevented people from voting.

The Shelby vs. Holder case, though, struck down restrictions on those key states from creating their own voting laws. Within hours, days and months of this ruling, several states made changes to their voting policies. Many immediately adopted voter ID laws, very strict ones, and purged many, many voters from the voting rolls.

Certain groups of people, like citizens of lower income and those of certain races and religions, are significantly affected by voter ID laws. They’re affected for a number of reasons.  The biggest issue is the time and money commitment. While it may seem like a normal thing to have and ID, like a license, a lot of people just don’t have one and getting the proper paperwork to obtain one can prove very expensive. 

Many states have voter ID laws, which essentially just require you to have an ID to vote. According to the ACLU, 11 percent of Americans do not have ID. Eleven percent is more than 21 million people. In many states, now and before the new act, you could use many different types of identification like worker ID’s and pay stubs and anything to prove your citizenship. 

New laws after the 2013 ruling have made it more challenging for some to get any kind of acceptable form of identification. Thus, many just can’t afford to get the ID. Even if ID’s are free, it costs money to prove your identity with getting birth certificates and even the transportation to the very few ID offices in some of these states. Specifically, these states and counties that have large minority populations have less ID offices and polling booths in general. 

Political Science researchers from different universities across the globe have conducted  extensive research to find out the “time and effort” it takes to vote in each state, since each state has their own voting laws and regulations. From Northern Illinois University, Jacksonville University and Wuhan University in China, researchers published a new issue of their “Cost of Voting in the American States.” 

The report measures items like registration deadline, poll hours, restrictions and voter ID laws. 

In this report, states are given a score for the restrictiveness of their voter ID laws. Scores range from zero (least restrictive) to four (most restrictive):

0 = no ID required to cast a ballot, only signature

1 = non-photo ID required not strictly enforced

2 = photo ID required not strictly enforced

3 = non-photo ID required strictly enforced

4 = photo ID required strictly enforced


The way this chart works is that the scale is the restrictiveness rate during that election year. So in 1996, the scale was only 0-2, meaning, based off the score chart, the worst score was a 2 being that a photo ID required but not strictly enforced. By 2003, it increased to 3, so that non-photo ID was required and strictly enforced. Then next year and on, the scale reached a 4, meaning states started requiring a photo ID and it was strictly enforced. 

The decimal number is the mean of the states and their ranking. As you can see, the number increased more and more each time, eventually multiplying by 5 from the first report. 

Restrictive voting practices  is an issue that is increasing over time and can only be stopped by demanding change. As youth, we can make an immense impact on the future of our country. Get out and vote, no matter what it takes. As much as anyone can try to stop us, we can always fight back. Do your part; go vote.

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Youth Voters Unite is a transmedia storytelling project produced by senior Communication majors at Cabrini University. Students in Senior Convergence: Media for Social Justice are reporting this academic year on the voting process and voting justice topics. Their goal is to educate youth voters on the importance of engaging in the political process and claiming their right to shape their own future. 


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