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State ID Laws Restrict Older Americans

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

En Español| Voting is easy, right? You simply show up. If the poll worker isn’t a neighbor, you might be asked for identification, but most anything will do. Then your name is checked off the list, and you vote.

Not so fast, James Madison. Over the past 18 months, state legislatures around the country have passed laws requiring voters to present government-issued IDs before they can cast a ballot. Some of the battles over the new requirements have moved from statehouses to courthouses.

See also: Follow our Election 2012 bloggers for campaign news.

Voter ID Laws can restrict older voters, Woman in an office holding a little stop-sign and paper that reads Voter ID Required

The government-issued voter ID requirement is an obstacle for many older voters. — Photo by Corbis

Proponents of the laws say they are needed to fight voter fraud. Opponents say there is little evidence of voter impersonation. They say the laws not only raise unnecessary obstacles to exercising constitutional rights, but also disproportionately hamper certain segments of the population, including older voters.

Eighteen percent of voters over 65 lack a current, government-issued photo ID, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. If the most stringent photo-ID laws stand, hundreds of thousands of eligible citizens could be disenfranchised Election Day, Nov. 6.

AARP voiced its position on a number of voter ID bills, and has gone to court to challenge the laws, as have the League of Women Voters and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

“AARP does not view these cases through a partisan lens at all,” says Daniel Kohrman, senior attorney for AARP Foundation Litigation. “We should not be a society where voters are forced to jump through so many hoops in order to vote, particularly if they’ve been voting for decades.”

Here are key states with photo ID laws to watch as Nov. 6 approaches:

Pennsylvania. Not only is the presidential race highly contested there, the state’s 15 percent of residents age 65 or older ranks fourth highest in the nation.

After the ACLU of Pennsylvania and other groups mounted a legal challenge, a state judge in October blocked enforcement this year of the voter ID law signed by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in March. The law requires a government-issued photo ID card. The state has announced that it has no evidence of in-person voter fraud.

AARP joined the legal challenge to the law in a friend of the court brief filed with eight other senior advocacy groups.

Next: More key states with photo ID laws to watch. »

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