Challenges with identity documents and voter registration in the United States

As the United States prepares for a national presidential election this November, there is increasing media coverage on voter registration and the many recent laws that now require voters to produce a government-issued ID to vote. These laws are said to be aimed at reducing voter fraud, but may dis-proportionally affect the poor and minority communities.

The article “Getting a photo ID so you can vote is easy, unless you’re poor, black, Latino, or elderly” highlights many of the same challenges that our citizenship/access to documentation paralegal program clients in other countries face - long distances to the registration offices, lack of supporting documents, prohibitive court fees for those who may have documents with different names and need a court-sworn affidavit, home births making registration more difficult, and many other obstacles.

“Across the country, about 11 percent of Americans do not have government-issued photo identification cards, such as a driver’s license or a passport” - many for the reasons above - but some legal aid programs in the US, such as the Campaign Legal Center, are assisting people get identification documents and/or register to vote.

How does your legal empowerment work respond to systems that on the surface apply the same requirements to everyone - but leave the poor and minority groups to fall through the cracks?

Where is the balance between requirements for documentation and accessibility to rights and services for all?

What lessons might we take from these laws in the US, to apply to our advocacy elsewhere - or what best practices from around the world give us insight for how to respond to these challenges in the US?

@juves @lore @mustafa_mahmoud @Fraela79 @stellaobita @zena @urdu

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