Homeless Voting Restricted Due to New ID Laws

By Abby Bova

In this precarious election every vote counts.  However, a portion of the voting population will not be eligible for in person Election Day voting because they do not have a state issued photo ID.  To make things even worse, the majority of the population lacking an ID is made up of the elderly, African Americans, Hispanics, and low-income residents whom have very little chance to have their voice heard in government affairs outside of the election.  “In November, 17 states will have voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election.  Eleven of those states will require their residents to show a photo ID” according to a Washington Post article. 

The average American will read these statistics and assume that the people without ID’s are simply lazy and don’t want to take the trip up to the DMV.  However, if one grew up on the streets and doesn’t have their birth certificate or know their exact birth name, this mundane task becomes a huge barrier.  The individual will not only have to jump through hoops to receive their birth certificate, but also pay for that birth certificate and ID card.  This process comes to a total of $33.50 in the state of Ohio and $60 for those born in Maine, an unaffordable price to the unemployed and low-income individuals whom save every penny they have to pay their rent and by food.  In most cases, the individual will give up and decide to post pone their vote for the next election when they may or may not find themselves in a stable financial situation.

Sadly, the voting restrictions in Ohio have been described as among the most restrictive in the country.  Ohio has been regarded as the most influential swing state for years and now a portion of the voting population will be forced to vote by mail or wait in line for early voting because they don’t have to correct ID.  To make the situation even worse, in order to obtain a certified birth certificate one must go to City Hall.  However, in order to enter City Hall one must present a photo ID, and if you were born in another state you are often required to present a copy of your official sate ID from your birthplace.   Some states require a certified letter from an attorney. 

Fortunately, in Cleveland 22 social service agencies have banned together over the last several years and created the ID Crisis Collaborative.  In November of 2015 the Cuyahoga County Council granted the ID Crisis Collaborative $340,000 to help pay for birth certificates and photo ID’s for those in need over the following two years.  This budget will allow the Collaborative to provide about 9,000 people with about 14,000 documents, as well as employ people part time for the Collaborative.  

While this service is a great triumph for Cleveland, we cannot forget the rest of Ohio and the 10 other states, which have put voter restriction ID laws in action.  Cleveland is one of the only cities in the United States with a homeless identification program.  These laws requiring ID to vote are eliminating a very important portion of the population without the ability to cast a ballot.   This cripples low income individuals from having a voice on budgets, funding for human services and who will lead this country.  The individuals who need a hand up paradoxically have a diminished ability to support candidates who want to help boost social welfare programs.  In this precarious election, every vote counts, and these discriminatory voting restrictions are a violation of the rights of citizens.

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