With the passage of so many new photo ID laws, it would be nice if states could get a handle on just how many citizens don’t have the kind of ID they will need in order to vote.
Numerous estimates suggest that at least 1 in 10 citizens don’t have the right type of identification and would not be eligible to vote. Among certain populations, the lack of ID is undoubtedly higher, including, for example, in Wisconsin where a comprehensive study found that 78% of African-American males age 18 to 24 and 66% of African-American women age 18 to 24 don’t have government photo ID. (Despite those numbers, representatives of the Department of Transportation in Wisconsin insist that 97% of currently registered voters has a photo ID.)
Along comes Ohio. The Columbus Dispatch analyzed the DMV and U.S. Census data in Ohio and found that some counties in the state have issued more IDs than they have voting-age people. According to this analysis, the percentage of voting-age residents having photo ID ranges from 71.9% in Athens County to 107.9% in Lawrence County. The average across the state is 100.3%. The paper concluded: “. . . records from the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles show about 8.83 million voting-age residents have an Ohio driver’s license or photo ID – about 28,000 more than there are voting-age residents in the state, according to the 2010 census.”
Stating the obvious, Professor Dan Tokaji at the Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law said: “It’s just not possible that every citizen in Ohio has a driver’s license. We may not know exactly how many don’t, but we know that it’s not the case.” It is possible that the census population estimates are too low or that people have been issued multiple licenses (one for cars, one for motorcycles) or people who move out of state haven’t been purged from the list or the census counts students at school who may have an ID issued in another county or state. What seems negligent is making policy decisions based on confusing and inaccurate information.
Those who say it isn’t a burden to the right kind of ID may be speaking for 107% of the population, but what about the rest of us?