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.
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.