Proponents of voter identification laws argue the practice prevents vote fraud, while its detractors often argue it lowers participation in election and often targets the elderly, impoverished and women, whose IDs may be unacceptable after changing their names after marriage. Now, the controversy is headed to a Kansas courtroom.
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Kansas for its voter ID laws, which it claims overstep the federal government’s requirements for voter registration.
According to the lawsuit, 35,000 new would-be voters were blocked from voting over the course of two years due to the laws. This means 14 percent of new voters were prohibited from registering, most of whom were under the age of 29 and not affiliated with a political party.
According to Got Voter ID, a site created by the Kansas secretary of state, as of Jan. 1, 2013, people registering to vote for the first time must prove U.S. citizenship. Voters must also show photo identification and have their signature verified and include a copy of their photo ID when voting by mail.
U.S. Air Force veteran Ralph Ortiz is one of the plaintiffs in the case. He attempted to register to vote when he was renewing his driver’s license, but a year later he was told he was suspended from voting for a year and needed to give additional proof of citizenship.
"I joined the military to help protect American freedoms, yet now I'm being denied the most fundamental right in our democracy," he told Reuters in a statement.
The other plaintiffs were a 57-year-old woman living in Wichita who couldn’t afford to obtain her birth certificate and a man who was born on a military base which has since closed, meaning he can’t obtain his birth certificate.
ACLU lawyer Dale Ho said would-be voters are often caught in a “bureaucratic mess.”