PRESS RELEASES from Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law

July 18, 2012

Study: 500,000 Americans Could Face Significant Challenges to Obtain Photo ID to Vote
Report Undercuts Claim That Voters Can Easily Acquire Free IDs

Contact: Erik Opsal,, 646-292-8356; Madeline Friedman,, 646-292-8357

New York, NY – Nearly 500,000 eligible voters in 10 states with restrictive voter ID laws live in households without vehicles and reside at least 10 miles from an ID-issuing office open more than two days a week, a new Brennan Center for Justice study found. Because many of these voters may not have driver’s licenses — and nearly all live in rural areas with dwindling public transportation options — it could be significantly harder for them to get an ID and cast a ballot.

The Brennan Center’s study undercuts the claim by many politicians in restrictive ID states that eligible voters can easily obtain a free ID to vote. A federal court considered this issue last week during a trial over Texas’s voter ID law, and Pennsylvania’s ID law will go before a state judge next Wednesday.

Audio of a media conference call discussing the report is available here.

“The Declaration of Independence says that all men are created equal, but new voter ID laws are preventing eligible Americans from participating in our democracy,” said Keesha Gaskins, Senior Counsel at the Brennan Center and co-author of The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification. “Voters find closed offices, long trips without cars and spotty public transit, and prohibitive costs for documents needed to get ID. Unless states with voter identification laws address these barriers now, many eligible citizens could lose their opportunity to vote this November.”

The Center’s research shows 1 in 10 eligible voters lack the necessary government-issued photo ID required by new restrictive voter ID laws, including 25 percent of African-Americans and 18 percent of Americans over 65.

Even if someone seeking photo ID manages to travel to an ID-issuing office, there is no guarantee it will be open during regular business hours. In Wisconsin, Alabama, and Mississippi, fewer than half of all ID-issuing offices are open five days a week. None are open on weekends. And some offices maintain truly unusual hours: the office in Woodville, Mississippi is open only on the second Thursday of each month.

The report also provides an extensive look at the scarcity of ID-issuing offices in areas heavily populated by people of color and those in poverty — the exact population that most lack government-issued photo ID.

In 11 Alabama counties within the rural “black belt,” there are more than 60,000 eligible black voters but no driver’s license offices open more than two days per week. In Texas, in 32 counties near the Mexico border, there are 80,000 Hispanic eligible voters but only two such ID-issuing offices. Across the voter ID states, many of the offices with limited hours are located in rural areas with high concentrations of minority voters.

More than 1 million eligible voters in these 10 photo ID states fall below the federal poverty line and reside more than 10 miles from the nearest ID-issuing office. These voters can be particularly affected by the significant costs of the documentation required to obtain a photo ID. Birth certificates can cost between $8 and $25. By comparison, the notorious poll tax — outlawed during the civil rights era — cost $10.64 in current dollars.

“Every American citizen should have the opportunity to vote, but these restrictive laws could make it harder for hundreds of thousands to exercise that right,” said Sundeep Iyer, Principal Quantitative Analyst at the Center and co-author of the report. “Instead of making it more difficult for citizens to go to the polls, we need new laws to modernize our voting system so all eligible Americans can vote on Election Day while reducing the potential for fraud or abuse.”

The 10 restrictive voter ID states examined in the report are Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. Five of the laws are currently in effect (Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee). The other five are either awaiting federal approval (Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas), on appeal after being found unconstitutional under state law (Wisconsin), or not scheduled to go into effect until after 2012 (Alabama).

Read the Brennan Center’s comprehensive study on how new restrictive voting laws could make it harder for millions of eligible Americans to vote. For more information, see our Election 2012 page.

To set up an interview with one of the Center’s voting experts, contact Erik Opsal (, 646-292-8356) or Madeline Friedman (, 646-292-8357).

October 3, 2011
Study: New Voting Restrictions May Affect More than Five Million 


Please Contact:

Jeanine Plant-Chirlin | jeanine.plant-chirlin [at], w. 646.292.8322, m. 646.265.7721

Andrew Goldston | andrew.goldston [at], w. 646.292.8372, m. 917.720.7895

New York – New voting laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012, according to the first comprehensive study of the laws’ impact.

Widespread voting cutbacks could have a significant electoral impact in next year’s hard-fought races, the study concludes. Minorities, poor and young voters will likely be most affected.

“This is the most significant cutback in voting rights in decades. More voters may be affected than the margin of victory in two out of the past three presidential elections,” said Michael Waldman, the Center’s executive diector. “In 2012 we should make it easier for every eligible citizen to vote. Instead, we have made it far harder for too many. Partisans should not try to tilt the electoral playing field in this way.”

Voting Law Changes in 2012 analyzes the 19 laws and two executive actions that passed in fourteen states this year, as well as more than 100 bills that were introduced but did not pass (some may still pass). The study shows, among other things:

Among the changes in 2011:

“These voting law changes are radical and completely unnecessary. They especially hurt those who have been historically locked out of our electoral system, like minorities, poor people, and students. Often they seem precisely targeted to exclude certain voters,” said Wendy. R. Weiser, report co-author and Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center. “After the Florida election fiasco in 2000, it became clear that the rules of election administration could affect outcomes. This time, those rules are being altered in a way that will likely hurt millions.”

“Significantly, these voting law cutbacks extend well beyond the most visible and controversial step to require government-issued photo ID that many citizens don’t have,” said report co-author Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program and former Chair of the Ohio Secretary of State’s bipartisan Election Summit and Conference. “An array of technical moves can add to significant barriers to the ballot. And it comes at a time when experience has taught us there are many ways to improve the voting process and expand access to the franchise while reducing costs.”

Proponents of these laws assert they are needed to combat voter fraud. An earlier Brennan Center study, The Truth About Voter Fraud, showed that such in-person voter impersonation is exceedingly rare. “You are more likely to be struck by lightening than to commit in-person voter fraud,” Waldman noted.

You can read a breakdown of the estimate of 5 million voters impacted here.

You can read more about how 11 percent of American citizens, or over 21 million citizens, do not possess a government-issued photo ID in Citizens Without Proof, another earlier Brennan Center publication.