10 Ways the U.S. Has Kept Citizens From Voting

Voter ID Laws
North Carolina State University students wait to vote in the primaries. The North Carolina 2016 primaries were the state's first use of the voter ID law, which excludes student ID cards. Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

At least 34 states now have laws requesting or requiring voters to show some form of identification, such as a driver's license or other government-issued ID, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures [source: NCSL]. Advocates of such laws promote them as necessary to prevent fraud at the polls. But critics charge that they're intended to keep young people and minorities, whom studies show are less likely to have such IDs, from voting. In some states, obtaining ID can cost as much as $60, and even in states where the cards are free, licensing offices are often in places that are difficult for people without cars to reach [source: Wilson].

The types of acceptable identification can be confusing too, or favor voters of one party over another. In Texas, for example, a handgun permit is considered acceptable identification, but a university ID card is not [source: Goodwyn].

A September 2014 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that black voter turnout in Kansas dropped by 3.7 percentage points more than white turnout after a voter ID law was passed, and that the number of 18-year-old voters dropped by 7.1 percent more than it did for voters aged 44 to 53 [source: GAO].