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If voter ID laws affect everybody, why are they seen as discriminatory?

Proponents of voter ID laws argue that they aren’t discriminatory because they apply the same requirements to all potential voters. But among the Americans who don’t have a government-issued photo ID (according to one widely cited 2006 study, that’s around 11 percent of voting-age US citizens — about 21 million people), racial minorities and senior citizens are way overrepresented.

Twenty-five percent of African Americans of voting age (compared with only 8 percent of their white counterparts), and 18 percent of Americans over the age of 65 do not have a government-issued photo ID.

Therefore, voter ID laws that require photo identification have a disproportionate impact on these groups as well as on low-income Americans, who are less likely to have driver’s licenses or be able to afford to obtain a form of identification before an election. (According to a September 2014 Government Accountability Officereport, fees vary by states — driver’s license direct costs, for example, range from $14.50 to $58.50.)

While proponents of voter ID laws argue that since it’s technically possible for most people to obtain an appropriate piece of identification, voter ID requirements don’t create a significant barrier to voting, critics of voter ID laws say this disproportionate impact makes voter ID laws unfair.

Critics of voter ID laws sometimes argue they are specifically designed make it harder for racial minorities and poor people — who are more likely to vote for Democrats — to vote. In 2012, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, a Republican, bragged that the voter ID law he’d helped pass was “gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” On this and other occasions, individual Republicans have said they know voter ID laws keep a group of people who are more likely to be Democrats from voting. Of course, this is by no means an official part of the GOP party platform, nor the stated rationale for most voting restrictions.

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