New Report Confirms Millions of Americans Lack ID Ahead of 2024 Elections


Many people mistakenly believe that most citizens in the United States already have government-issued photo identification. 

The truth is, millions of Americans do not

As the country’s leading organization focused on voter ID education and assistance, we know from our on-the-ground work that far too many citizens lack the ID they need to find employment, secure stable housing, access life-saving medical care, and increasingly, to vote. In the face of an explosion of voter ID laws across the country in recent years, we also know that Americans are increasingly confused and intimidated by complicated and ever-changing voter ID requirements. 

Today, 38 states — more than ever before — require or request a specific type of ID to cast a ballot. In 2023 alone, eight states passed new or stricter voter ID requirements. Even more new voter ID laws are expected in 2024 as state legislatures convene this year. 

As the 2024 election cycle heats up, it’s critical that VoteRiders continues to sharpen our understanding of the voter ID landscape. 

Last year, alongside the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement (CDCE) at the University of Maryland, the Brennan Center for Justice, and Public Wise, VoteRiders embarked upon a multiphase research project to provide the public with crucial information on voter ID — which had not been updated in nearly 20 years. We released the results from the first phase of this research in April 2023, and our findings are already helping VoteRiders, democracy organizations, the media, policy-makers, and others better understand the state of play with respect to the voters who lack ID.

Now we’re excited to release the results of the next phase of that research, which involves a new national study fielded in fall of 2023. This time we examined not just who in America lacks ID, but also why. Given that it had been nearly 20 years since a public survey examined ID access in America, we also wanted to find out what people do and do not know about the voter ID laws in their states. 

As VoteRiders’ Legal Director wrote in a Democracy Docket op-ed: 

Our findings confirmed what we at VoteRiders have known for quite some time through our work across the country: voter ID laws are wreaking havoc on the voting process, confusing voters, and restricting the right to vote. And these rules harm some communities more than others – effectively distorting our electorate and undermining our democracy. 

Other key findings from the analysis include: 

  • Over 34.5 million people either do not have a driver’s license or state ID OR have one that does not have their current name and/or address on it, which could possibly cause difficulties voting in states with strict photo ID laws.
  • Citizens of color are almost 4x more likely to not have a current government-issued photo ID compared to white citizens.
  • 19% of Americans without a driver’s license said they didn’t have one because of bureaucratic or economic barriers — like not being able to afford the cost of the license or not having underlying documents like a birth certificate or Social Security card.
  • Over half of Americans living in states requiring photo ID to vote in-person do not know their state’s laws and do not realize that they will need this type of identification to successfully cast a ballot. 
  • 35% of citizens who live in states that do not have a photo ID law either mistakenly think photo ID is required to vote in person or they’re not sure what the law even is. 
  • Voters are even less confident in their knowledge of ID laws for voting by mail. 

So what can we do to defend our democracy? 

Our democracy is strongest when everyone has the freedom to make their voice heard. That’s why VoteRiders staff and dedicated volunteers are working year-round to help folks get the ID and underlying documents they need to vote. Many of the barriers preventing people from obtaining an ID — like not being able to afford one or not having a Social Security card — are exactly the kinds of challenges our staff and trained volunteers are helping voters overcome every single day. 

As voter confusion soars in the face of continuously shifting voter ID requirements, VoteRiders is reaching millions of Americans with the accurate and trusted ID information they need to engage in key elections that impact their communities. Ahead of every election, our staff and thousands of volunteers team up to send text messages, make phone calls, and write letters to voters in key states to make sure they’re aware of upcoming elections and their state’s ID requirements for voting

There’s no denying that the need for our work is even greater in 2024. With voter ID laws sweeping across the nation and millions of Americans preparing to vote in one of the most consequential elections of our lifetime, VoteRiders stands ready to reach more voters than ever before. 

Given that a small percentage of votes can — and often does — determine the outcome of close elections, effective voter ID education and assistance could make all the difference in November.

Millions of Americans may still lack what they need to make their voices heard, but we’re doing everything we can to change that. Day after day we’re putting everything we’ve got into building a democracy that represents and works for all of us.   

But we can’t do it alone. Join us

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