Photo ID laws are discriminatory to minorities

Photo Identification Laws Disproportionately Disenfranchise Minorities

How photo ID laws make voting harder for specific demographics of voters


Article I of the Constitution gives states the power to make laws governing elections. Since then, there have been several federal amendments to the Constitution to protect the right to vote for all Americans. For example, the 15th Amendment gave African-American men the right to vote and the 19th Amendment enfranchised women. Laws such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibited voting practices that discriminate based on race, color, or membership to a language minority group. However, because states have the ability to make unique laws regarding voting and elections, wide variation exists across the country in terms of regulations governing the voting process. Laws regarding voter registration, absentee voting, early voting, polling times, etc. all vary depending on the state.

Most recently, states have begun to implement photo ID laws, which require voters to show a government-issued photo ID in order to vote. Again, these laws vary widely depending on the state and largely fall into five different categories: strict photo ID, strict non-photo ID, photo ID requested, ID requested with photo not required, and no document required to vote. However, all forms of voter ID laws have one thing in common: they systematically disenfranchise minority and low-income voters.

Voting is already an irrational behavior. The costs of voting (time, transportation, information collection) all far outweigh any benefits received. The only rational reason people vote is because of a sense of civic duty. Perhaps this comes from proudly displaying an "I voted" sticker on your suit at work or from answering the phone call from your mom on November 6th and being able to say that yes, you, in fact, did vote and no, you are not as irresponsible as she thinks. However, by adding yet another hoop for voters to jump through, photo ID laws decrease participation in elections. This is problematic because participation in elections, especially at the state and local level, is already dismally low (only 27 percent of eligible voters turn out to local elections).

Most importantly though, specific demographics of voters are more likely to not possess a government-issued photo ID, such as minority groups and low-income, low-education individuals. And when participation systematically excludes minorities and lower-class individuals, there are real consequences. The interests of those who do not and cannot vote go unrepresented in the legislature, as representatives respond to the concerns of their voting constituents whom their re-election depends on. Furthermore, descriptive representation of minority voters goes down, as people tend to vote for people who physically resemble themselves. When individuals do not see people like themselves in office, they can be discouraged against participating in a system that consistently under-represents them.

Finally, there is no basis for the sudden mass implementation of photo ID laws. As of February 2019, 35 states enforce or are scheduled to begin enforcing photo ID requirements. The main arguments for supporting these laws rests in the idea of the need to protect electoral integrity and to fight against voter fraud. However, voter fraud is not a real issue (even though consistent rhetoric from politicians has turned it into one). Between 2000 and 2014, only 31 cases of voter fraud were confirmed out of over 1 billion ballots cast. The underlying reason for the implementation of these laws rests in history. Barriers to voting date back to post-Civil War efforts to systematically disenfranchise African Americans.

Jim Crow laws prevented African Americans from voting for almost one-hundred years after the 15th Amendment Constitutionally granted males the right to vote. Laws regulating (and most often preventing) felons from voting further disenfranchise black and low-income individuals who suffer from mass incarceration due to fabricated wars on drugs and crime that elected officials utilize as political tools. Now, we have the emergence of photo ID laws that continue to disenfranchise specific demographics of voters under the veil of protecting against voter fraud.

It is time to take the veil off and see these laws for what they are. Photo ID laws are discriminatory. They add another barrier to voting, and they are unnecessary to protect electoral integrity. They can be traced back to history as yet another form of minority voter disenfranchisement.

And they are not okay.

Popular Right Now

Austin Alexander Burridge, Volunteer Advocate, Shares 3 Great Reasons to Volunteer and Help Others

Austin Alexander Burridge is an avid academic who studies Environmental Science at Winona State University and believes that work in the service of others is a key pillar to personal development.


Sometimes it's easy for someone to adopt a "me, me, me" attitude. While focusing on oneself, a person may feel nice in the moment, but serving and helping others will bring lasting benefits. While there are many great reasons to serve and help others, there are three universal truths that resonate with volunteers around the globe.

Austin Alexander Burridge's 3 Reasons to Volunteer:

1. Accomplishment

Often, people fall into a trap of focusing on themselves when they are feeling down. Maybe someone did not get a job they wanted. Or perhaps a person gets dumped by an expected lifelong companion. Maybe someone feels they have underachieved after looking at Facebook and seeing great things a high school classmate has accomplished. When feeling down, helping others is a proven way to improve one's mood and attitude, and it can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. The act of giving to those in need is an inherently good action and leaves people with a wonderful feeling of joy.

2. Gratitude

One can become more appreciative of life by serving others that have less. Whether volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting the elderly at an assisted living center, or helping families after a natural disaster, service enables people to be grateful for what they have. Seeing people who have fewer advantages, especially those who are spirited and thankful for small things, allows one to realize just how fortunate he/she is in life.

3. Friendships

Volunteering is a great way to build meaningful friendships, not only with other volunteers but also with those who are served. One of the most profound and fascinating aspects of these relationships is how volunteers will learn from those served and vice versa. As these special bonds are built, they lead to impactful connections that last for years to come.

Of course, these are just a few reasons to volunteer and serve others. One can never go wrong by helping others as opposed to merely focusing on oneself. Volunteering invariably and inevitably contributes to personal growth, development, and satisfaction.

About Austin Alexander Burridge: Helping others has been of paramount importance to Austin, and as a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Austin gave back to the community around him. He also has participated in annual peanut butter drives, The Minnesota Sandwich Project for the Homeless and collected canned goods for local food shelters. Additionally, Austin has a passion for the environment, which he pursued when visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and the Amazon Rain Forest while studying at the School of Environment Studies, which investigates ecological systems and their sustainability

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?


This past week, I was called a faggot by someone close to me and by note, of all ways. The shock rolled through my body like thunder across barren plains and I was stuck paralyzed in place, frozen, unlike the melting ice caps. My chest suddenly felt tight, my hearing became dim, and my mind went blank except for one all-encompassing and constant word. Finally, after having thawed, my rage bubbled forward like divine retribution and I stood poised and ready to curse the name of the offending person. My tongue lashed the air into a frenzy, and I was angry until I let myself break and weep twice. Later, I began to question not sexualities or words used to express (or disparage) them, but my own embodiment of them.

For members of the queer community, there are several unspoken and vital rules that come into play in many situations, mainly for you to not be assaulted or worse (and it's all too often worse). Make sure your movements are measured and fit within the realm of possible heterosexuality. Keep your music low and let no one hear who you listen to. Avoid every shred of anything stereotypically gay or feminine like the plague. Tell the truth without details when you can and tell half-truths with real details if you must. And above all, learn how to clear your search history. At twenty, I remember my days of teaching my puberty-stricken body the lessons I thought no one else was learning. Over time I learned the more subtle and more important lessons of what exactly gay culture is. Now a man with a head and social media accounts full of gay indicators, I find myself wondering both what it all means and more importantly, does it even matter?

To the question of whether it matters, the answer is naturally yes and no (and no, that's not my answer because I'm a Gemini). The month of June has the pleasure of being the time of year when the LGBT+ community embraces the hateful rhetoric and indulges in one of the deadly sins. Pride. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the figures at the head of the gay liberation movement, fought for something larger than themselves and as with the rest of the LGBT+ community, Pride is more than a parade of muscular white men dancing in their underwear. It's a time of reflection, of mourning, of celebration, of course, and most importantly, of hope. Pride is a time to look back at how far we've come and realize that there is still a far way to go.

This year marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement launched onto the world stage, thus making the learning and embracing of gay culture that much more important. The waves of queer people that come after the AIDS crisis has been given the task of rebuilding and redefining. The AIDS crisis was more than just that. It was Death itself stalking through the community with the help of Regan doing nothing. It was going out with friends and your circle shrinking faster than you can try or even care to replenish. Where do you go after the apocalypse? The LGBT+ community was a world shut off from access by a touch of death and now on the other side, we must weave in as much life as we can.

But we can't freeze and dwell of this forever. It matters because that's where we came from, but it doesn't matter because that's not where we are anymore. We're in a time of rebirth and spring. The LGBT+ community can forge a new identity where the AIDS crisis is not the defining feature, rather a defining feature to be immortalized, mourned, and moved on from.

And to the question of what does it all mean? Well, it means that I'm gay and that I've learned the central lesson that all queer people should learn in middle school. It's called Pride for a reason. We have to shoulder the weight of it all and still hold our head high and we should. Pride is the LGBT+ community turning lemons into lemon squares and limoncello. The lemon squares are funeral cakes meant to mourn and be a familiar reminder of what passed, but the limoncello is the extravagant and intoxicating celebration of what is to come. This year I choose to combine the two and get drunk off funeral cakes. Something tells me that those who came before would've wanted me to celebrate.

Related Content

Facebook Comments