Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The High Cost of a Voter ID

Guest Blog Post by: Faye Anderson.

I spent the weekend at the Random Hacks of Kindness hack-a-thon at Drexel University. The event brought together developers and subject matter experts to build mobile and web apps “to make the world a better place.

I’m a voting rights advocate so I shared the problem facing millions of registered voters who, for the first time, must present government-issued photo ID in order to vote. Voters without a photo ID can apply for a free voter ID, but they need a photo ID to establish their identity.

Some background: In eight states – Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin – registered voters must show government-issued photo ID to vote.
Cost of Freedom Logo

In Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, the U. S. Supreme Court held that states with strict photo ID requirements must provide free IDs. While the voter ID is free, the document a citizen must produce to establish his or her identity is not free. Those documents include birth certificates and passports. Of course, if a voter has a passport, there would no need to get a voter ID.

The cost of obtaining a birth certificate ranges from $5.00 in Indiana to $25.00 in Georgia. In addition to the state fee, an applicant will have to pay for postage and photocopying (if requested by mail), transportation (if requested in person) or the fee (if ordered online).

The strict photo ID requirements will disproportionately impact young and minority voters.

Who Lacks Voter ID - 12.5.11
Voting rights groups, including the ACLU and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, are challenging the constitutionality of photo ID laws, as applied. But the countdown to Election Day 2012 has begun and voters without government-issued photo ID need assistance right now.

So on Sunday, we presented a prototype for the Cost of Freedom App, a voter education tool.

Developed by Joe Tricarico, John Campbell, Maneesha Sane and yours truly, the mobile and web app will provide voters with the information they need to apply for a voter ID. If they do not have documents to establish their identity, users will be able to type in their address to find out how to obtain a certified copy of their birth certificate and the cost. If they want to apply in person, they will be given the office location, office hours and directions using public transportation.

You don’t have to be a developer to help build the app. If you want to get involved, join the conversation on Facebook. On Twitter, use the hashtag #costoffreedom.

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