The Takeaway: Older Adults Disenfranchised Under New Voter ID Laws

New voter identification laws in 10 states could make it difficult for millions of Americans to cast ballots, according to a new report from New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. Older adults and minorities are especially likely to be left out: About 18 percent of Americans 65 and older, 25 percent of blacks and 16 percent of Hispanics lack the type of ID required by the new voting laws.

Such government-issued IDs are now required to vote in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

“The idea that we’re forcing certain people to go through these very difficult extra hoops is antithetical to some of the founding principles of this country,” said Larry Norton of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. The Center and other groups have filed lawsuits in several states claiming the new ID laws unfairly target elderly, minority and low-income voters. AARP has filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of challenges to Pennsylvania’s voter ID law and to Minnesota’s scheduled referendum on voter ID requirements.

See Also: In Philadelphia, New Voter ID Law Hits Elderly Voters the Hardest >>

While obtaining a government-issued ID might not seem like such an obstacle to most, the report notes that many voters live more than 10 miles from a state-ID issuing office and have limited access to vehicles or public transportation. The state offices also tend to have limited and/or irregular hours (one Wisconsin office is open only on the fifth Wednesday of every month, though only four months of the year have five Wednesdays).

States with restrictive voter ID requirements will account for nearly half the electoral votes needed to win the presidency in November’s election between Obama and Mitt Romney. Analysts say the voting blocs most likely to be disenfranchised by the new law are also more likely to favor Democrats. The majority of the new voter ID laws were passed by Republican-controlled legislatures.

Supporters of the new rules say they’ll help reduce voting fraud and ensure fair elections. But repeated investigations have shown vote fraud in America is incredibly rare. A 2007 report by Project Vote found that between 2002 and 2005, only 24 people were convicted of illegal voting, including 14 who were non-citizens, five who had felony convictions and five who voted twice. The Brennan Center puts it thus: One is more likely to be struck by lightning than to come across an actual case of voter fraud.

Thursday Quick Hits: 

  • Remodelers aiming for aging boomers. Retrofits that let homeowners age in place are driving the remodeling market, according to a new Harvard University study. “There are incremental things that can be done to improve a home, not giving it a medicinal environment but making it an open, sunny, low-maintenance place where life is easy for everyone,” said architect and author Deborah Pierce.
  • Public and private pensions underfunded. A new study by S&P Dow Jones Indices found corporate pension funds only had about 70 percent of  the money they need to cover retiree pensions and benefits. Meanwhile, in the public sector, U.S. pensions are underfunded by $1 to $3 trillion, the national State Budget Crisis Task Force reports.
  • Cost-of-living drives retirees abroad. Over 3 million American boomers are planning to to retire outside of the United States, according to figures from Travel Market Report. “The cost of living is half of what it would be in the U.S.,” said one expat in his late-50s who lives in Ecuador with his wife. “Because of the high taxes, medical costs and insurance (in the U.S.), we just can’t figure out a way to live as affordably as we do here.”

Photo: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post/Getty Images