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New Rules About Voting: How They May Affect You

New voting laws that require photo ID’s may have a disproportionate impact on older Americans.

After the 2010 midterm elections, dozens of states have enacted these laws—leaving the current total of states where you need a photo ID to vote at about 34. The problem is that approximately 21 million people don’t have valid, government-issued photo ID’s—and this could cut millions of people out of the democratic process.

Many of those people are those from impoverished communities, students and young adults, and older adults—but it’s predicted that older adults will be the most severely hit. Almost 8 million senior citizens—that’s about one in five—don’t have a current photo ID. That’s because many older adults let their licenses expire after they stop driving, and don’t replace them with a state-issued photo ID. It can also be more difficult for those over 65 to get photo ID’s in the first place or offer alternative forms of identification, because some were born before it was a standard practice to issue a birth certificate at a birth.

These photo ID laws are still quite new—and some of them are being challenged in court. The laws in Texas and Wisconsin are being challenged in court, and the law in South Carolina was recently struck down—although the governor has said she would appeal.

If you don’t have a photo ID and want to vote in the next election, here are a few things you can do.


New, stricter voting laws have the potential to keep millions of Americans from the polls—including older adults who don’t have the correct identification.




Ask for a provisional ballot

In some states, voters without valid photo ID’s are given a provisional ballot. This is only counted if you bring a new photo ID to a government elections office within a few days of your vote, however—and if the election isn’t close, your vote may not be counted at all.

See if you have an acceptable form of ID

The ID laws are different in each state, and it’s possible you already have the ID you need—even if you don’t have a current driver’s license. In some states, you will need a non-expired form of government ID, but in others—such as Georgia—your driver’s license is acceptable even if expired. Some states will allow you to use a valid employee photo ID if you work for the state or federal government.  Others will allow military photo ID’s—although in some states, these may not include VA cards. A passport is acceptable in some states, as are valid tribal ID’s. Check your state’s voter ID requirements online to make sure you don’t already have the ID you need.

Get a photo ID

If you have enough time before the election to get a photo ID, this may—unfortunately—be your only option. Check with your state to see what type of photo ID is acceptable—and which one would be easiest for you to get. For older adults who don’t drive and don’t live close to convenient public transportation, this may be the most onerous requirement, and you may need to ask someone to drive you. For those who work, it can also be difficult to get the required ID, as government offices that issue them often keep only weekday hours.

New, stricter voting laws have the potential to keep millions of Americans from the polls—including older adults who don’t have the correct identification. But you may already have the ID you need. Check your state’s regulations regarding ID requirements for voting, and if you don’t already have the right type of ID, choose the one that’s the least onerous for you to get. If you do, hopefully you won’t be kept from voting in the next election cycle.