Voter ID laws mostly serve to disenfranchise voters rather than prevent voter fraud (which is less common than getting struck by lightning).
Voter ID laws mostly serve to disenfranchise voters rather than prevent voter fraud (which is less common than getting struck by lightning). (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Texas, Georgia, and 33 other US states have voter ID laws in place for the 2020 election. They don’t stop voter fraud, but they do prevent thousands of registered voters from casting ballots.

For the last four years, the President Donald Trump has made unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. As Election Day inches closer, the president and his administration have directed these concerns to mail-in voting options amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic resulting in cases of voter suppression across the country.

Despite the overwhelming lack of evidence pointing to widespread voter fraud—it happens 0.00000132% percent of the time—several states have made mail-in voting options difficult and enforced strict voter ID laws in preparation for the 2020 election. 

Texas Has Some of the Most Restrictive Voting Laws in the Country—That’s Not Good for Democracy

Texas, which has a long history of voter suppression, is one of several states refusing to accommodate eligible voters worried about COVID-19 exposure at the polls. In addition to prohibiting mail-in voting, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbot also shutdown satellite locations for Texans eligible to submit absentee ballots, meaning that there will only be one drop-off box for absentee ballots per county in the state, regardless of population or size.

But for the vast majority of Texans, voting in person at their assigned polling location is their only option in a state with one of the strictest voter ID laws. While voter ID laws were ostensibly created to prevent statistically negligible voter fraud, they have historically been used to block Black, Latino, people of color, and young people from casting their ballots. 

In Texas, where 40% of the population is Latino, only specific types of ID are permitted at the polls. For example, a gun permit qualifies as an acceptable form of identification, while a college ID is not. This statistically works against younger voters and voters of color. According to government data, more than 80% of Texas gun permits are issued to white Texans, and more than 50% of students in the University of Texas System identify as people of color. 

Former Texas Democratic congressman Beto O’Rourke acknowledges that the state’s ID laws are a form of voter disenfranchisement. “For 144 years, Texas has perfected the science of suppressing voters at the ballot box,” he said, noting that prohibiting college IDs as a valid form of identification was a component of an “infrastructure of suppression.”

Voter ID Laws Are Used in 35 States Across the Country

Texas is not alone in adopting voter ID laws that attempt to disenfranchise residents. On Nov. 3, a total of 35 states will require voter identification and offer no alternative option for people who do not have an ID that fits the local requirements. 

The fact of the matter is that millions of people in the US do not have a valid ID, and it so happens that a disproportionate number of them are racial or ethnic minorities. Take, for instance, North Dakota, where a federal district court discovered that 19% of Native Americans did not have an eligible ID when the state implemented its voter ID law in 2017. 

Georgia also has a history of enacting restrictive voter ID laws. In addition to requiring specific forms of ID, the state also required that names in voter registration records exactly matched the voters’ names on their valid forms of identification. As a result, about 80% of those blocked from voting by this “exact match” law were people of color.

The law may have resulted in contested election results for the Georgia governor race that year, after Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp won against Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams, a Black woman, by a small margin. Some experts credit his victory to the disqualification of 53,000 voters, 70% of whom were Black, by Georgia’s “exact match” requirements. The law has since been changed to relax the criteria that names match exactly.

The 2020 presidential race between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden is undoubtedly a high-stakes election. This is why it’s imperative for eligible voters, especially those who identify as people of color, to know their rights and understand the voting laws in their state. 

How Can You Make Sure You’re Able to Vote?

If voter registration did not yet close, be sure to register. If you already registered, double-check your registration records and study your state’s name-match requirement. Figure out if your state requires an ID to vote and note which kinds of ID it accepts. If it does require an ID, and you have one that qualifies, make sure your name and information match your registration records if that is a policy in your state. If your ID doesn’t match or if you don’t have an ID, try to get one before Election Day. 

If you run into any issues or believe you have experienced voter suppression, do not let it discourage you from casting your ballot. You can do this by alerting poll workers or election officials about your issues, or you can call the voter protection hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE.