On YouTube, Steven Crowder makes misleading claim about voter suppression laws and “free” voter IDs

On the April 20 edition of Steven Crowder’s Change My Mind, the right-wing YouTuber made a disingenuous claim regarding the cost of obtaining a voter ID.

Arguing with people on the street, Crowder contended that laws that required a state ID to vote are essential, and furthermore that opposing such laws is racist. During multiple exchanges, Crowder claimed that obtaining a photo ID in the six states that strictly require one to vote is free of charge.

Video file

Citation From the April 20, 2021, edition of Change My Mind, streamed on YouTube

STEVEN CROWDER (HOST): Now, there are slightly fewer African Americans with identification -- with government-issued identification. It's not 25% -- can you let me finish? -- 87% of Black Americans and it's anywhere between 85 to 90, and white Americans, 90 to 95. But, it is interesting that you brought up a couple things. Rural areas, driving further, sure. So that would be really disenfranchising largely white people who live in rural areas. Not necessarily Black people. And let me say this since you mentioned the prices of voting. First up -- of obtaining voter ID, yes. Apologies. It's as low as four and it's as high as 58. Now, are you aware that in the six states -- how many states are you aware of that actually require photo identification? 


CROWDER: Right, yes, it's six I believe, depending on how you interpret them. Let's go with seven. All of them provide free ID. 

Following a 2008 Supreme Court decision, it is true that states which require residents to present photo identification to vote have provisions in their laws to issue such ID cards at no cost. However, this does not mean that the process of getting the identification is “free.”

Black and Hispanic Americans are significantly less likely than white Americans to already have valid identification required by strict voter ID laws. Many people, particularly those in poverty and minority voters, have difficulty obtaining the documents needed to receive valid identification, such as through the loss of a birth certificate or social security card. Obtaining the documents needed to receive a “free” voter ID card can be costly for those who do not have them readily available.

A 2014 Harvard study found that the combined cost of obtaining an ID can range from $75 to $175. For individuals in three specific states, the study found that the cost can be as high as $368. This cost, when adjusted for inflation, represents “between seven and 136 times the $1.50 poll tax outlawed by the 24th amendment in 1964.”

The cost the state incurs to provide “free” identification to its voters is likewise high. The Guardian reported last year that the combined cost to taxpayers in several states was $36 million. In Indiana, for example, the cost to taxpayers for implementing the state’s strict voter ID law over four years equaled $10 million.

Strict voter ID laws pose an onerous financial burden on both voters and taxpayers. Crowder’s claim that six states with strict voter ID laws provide “free” identification to their residents is disingenuous and misleading.