New Analysis: Millions of Americas Lack Forms of ID that are Increasingly required to Vote
Young people, people of color are less likely to have valid photo ID, showing potential impact of restrictive voter ID laws on these communities
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – (April 13, 2023) – The University of Maryland’s Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement (CDCE) and VoteRiders, the nation’s leading voting rights organization focused on ID education and assistance, have released a new analysis showing that millions of voting-age Americans do not possess a non-expired, government-issued photo ID. The analysis comes as a growing number of states enact new or stricter voter ID requirements, likely increasing the number of Americans who lack the required ID to vote in their states.
For the report, “WHO LACKED PHOTO ID IN 2020?: An Exploration of the American National Election Studies (ANES),” CDCE and VoteRiders analyzed data from the 2020 ANES, the premier survey of voting-age Americans’ political attitudes and behaviors. The analysis specifically looked at survey responses from Americans about whether they have a non-expired driver’s license, U.S. passport, or some other form of valid, government-issued photo ID. Only two types of IDs are common to all 36 states with voter ID laws as of 2023: a current driver’s license or a state ID card.
Key findings from the analysis include:
- As of 2020, nearly 29 million voting-age U.S. citizens did not have a non-expired driver’s license and over 7 million did not have any other form of non-expired government-issued photo identification.
- In states with strict photo identification laws in 2020 – including Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Wisconsin – over 3 million voting-age U.S. citizens did not have a current driver’s license and over 1 million did not have any non-expired government-issued photo identification. Two additional states, Arkansas and Ohio (as of April 4, 2023), have enacted strict photo ID laws since 2020, with more expected to follow as state legislatures convene this year.
- More than 11 million young people (18-29 year olds) did not have a current driver’s license and more than 3 million did not have any unexpired government issued photo ID.
- 18-19 year olds in particular were the most likely by far to lack a driver’s license (39% did not have a license.)
- Members of underrepresented racial and ethnic groups were less likely to have a current driver’s license or other government-issued photo ID.
- An estimated 1.86 million Black non-Hispanic Americans (6.2%), 1.86 million Hispanic Americans (6.1%) lack a photo ID, as do 4.5% of those who identify as Native American, Native Alaskan, or another race. This compares to just 2.3% of White non-Hispanic Americans and 1.6% of Asian, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander Americans.
- Individuals with a high school degree or less were the least likely to have a current driver’s license or any photo ID. Over 18.5 million people who did not complete high school or whose highest level of education is a high school degree did not have a driver’s license.
- The analysis found a strong relationship between income and lack of a driver’s license, with adult Americans earning less than $30,000 lacking a driver’s license at a rate about five times greater than the highest income category of $100,000 or more.
- Those who were not registered and those who did not vote in 2020 were far more likely to lack a current driver’s license and lack any photo ID. Adult Americans who were not registered to vote were three times more likely to lack a driver’s license (30%) than those who were registered (11%). The results were similar when comparing 2020 non-voters to 2020 voters, demonstrating the disproportionate barrier that voter ID laws may place in front of non-voters or infrequent voters, as well as new or first-time voters.
“This report shows that millions of Americans, representing all political ideologies and affiliations, may lack the ID they need to successfully cast a ballot in the state where they live,” said Michael Hanmer, the Director of CDCE and a co-author of the analysis. “With the demographics most likely to lack valid voter ID being among the fastest-growing demographic groups in the country–including young people, people of color, and particularly young people of color–the potential for voter ID laws to keep more eligible citizens from casting a ballot is likely to rise as well as we head toward the 2024 elections and beyond.”
Overall, 36 states have a law that requires or requests voters show a form of ID before they cast their ballots. Since the 2020 elections, 16 states have enacted new ID laws or added restrictions to their current ID laws. Voter ID laws passed after the 2020 elections in North Carolina and Montana are also currently being litigated in their respective state supreme courts.
“This data reinforces how the shifting landscape of state-level voter ID laws creates confusion and challenges for millions of Americans seeking to make their voices heard in our democracy, something our staff working on the ground across the country see firsthand every day,” said Lauren Kunis, CEO and Executive Director of VoteRiders. “As states rapidly pass new and stricter voter ID laws, ensuring that voters are informed about these changes and have help accessing the IDs they need to cast their ballots has never been more important.”
To see the full analysis, click here. For more information about CDCE, visit cdce.umd.edu. For more on VoteRiders, visit voteriders.org. To request interviews or for other questions, please contact [email protected].
VoteRiders is a non-partisan, non-profit organization founded in 2012 with a mission to ensure that all citizens are able to exercise their freedom to vote. VoteRiders informs and helps citizens to secure their voter ID as well as inspires and supports organizations, local volunteers, and communities to sustain voter ID education and assistance efforts.
ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND’S CENTER FOR DEMOCRACY AND CIVIC ENGAGEMENT (CDCE)
CDCE educates, informs, and engages citizens and scholars in order to improve democratic governance. CDCE does so by partnering with organizations to bridge the gap between academic research and practical solutions to problems related to the role of government and its citizens as equal partners. CDCE is housed in the Department of Government and Politics in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the University of Maryland.