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State ID Laws Restrict Older Americans

The battle against state photo ID laws that are obstacles to older voters

South Carolina. The Justice Department twice rejected South Carolina’s photo ID law, enacted in 2011. The state attorney general has asked a federal court to allow the law to go into effect, but the case won’t be heard until late September.

A year ago the state election commission said that nearly 217,000 registered voters in South Carolina didn’t have a state-issued photo ID. Now the commission is expressing concern about being able to provide photo IDs by Nov. 6 if the court allows the law to go into effect. The commission also said it has no documented cases of voter impersonation at the polls.

Battles over voter ID laws have played out in a number of other states, many with involvement by AARP state offices or AARP Foundation Litigation. A law challenged in Missouri fell, but those challenged in Arizona, Georgia, Indiana and Michigan were upheld. AARP and allies thus far have succeeded in setting aside a law requiring Arizonans attempting to register to vote to present proof of citizenship. This requirement is unnecessary, AARP argues, given that all such voters face serious criminal penalties if they violate a signed and sworn oath that they are citizens.

Older voters pay close attention to election campaigns and turn out in the greatest numbers. Yet voter ID laws affect them in disproportionate numbers. There appears to be little reason to expect efforts to pass these laws to go away, and likewise there’s little reason to expect fights that encourage people to vote to let up either.

Marsha Mercer is an independent journalist in Northern Virginia.

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