Last Tuesday, Beth Hiller, a 97 year-old nursing home resident from Topeka, Kansas, boarded a shuttle along with several other residents of the nursing home’s health care unit. It was a difficult process for many of the residents, who had limited mobility and depended on wheelchairs or walkers in order to move around. Yet Hiller and her fellow residents also boarded that shuttle intending to exercise one of their most important rights as citizens — the shuttle was there to take them to a nearby polling place so that they could vote in a primary election.
When Hiller arrived at the polls, however, she was told that she could not exercise her right to vote after all. Hiller was turned away because she did not have a photo ID, and Kansas has a strict voter ID law that disenfranchises voters without identification. Indeed, Kansas’ voter ID law is so strict that it even prohibits voters from casting an absentee ballot unless they have ID.
To add insult to injury, Hiller was also denied the opportunity to cast a provisional ballot, something she is entitled to do even under the state’s voter ID law, although it is doubtful that it would have made much of a difference if she had cast a provisional vote. Under Kansas’ voter ID law, a voter who casts a provisional ballot because they lack photo ID must still show up at the local election office with identification before their ballot can be counted.
Although voter ID’s defenders frequently defend the laws as necessary to combat voter fraud at the polls, the reality is that such fraud is virtually non-existent. Indeed, just last week, a new study which surveyed the more than a billion votes cast in the United States between 2000 and 2014 found only 31 credible examples of impersonation at the polls. Meanwhile, even conservative estimates suggest voter ID laws prevent that between 2 and 3 percent of registered voters from casting a ballot.
Elderly voters like Hiller are particularly likely to be disenfranchised by voter ID laws, as they are less likely to have driver’s licenses and may have little need for ID in their daily lives, especially if they spend most of their lives in a nursing care facility.
Young people, minorities and low-income voters are also especially likely to be disenfranchised by voter ID — all of which are groups that tend to lean further to the left than the electorate as a whole.