MYTH: To Prevent Fraud, We Must Require Government-Issued Photo ID

Requiring voters to present government-issued photo identification at the polls is a poll tax. In direct and indirect ways, voter identification laws impose financial and logistical burdens on some communities in particular, and are meant to deter those communities from voting.

At the turn of the twentieth century, many states had direct poll taxes. These were not monies collected at the polls, but rather were fees that were due to be paid at the county assessor’s office ahead of the election. This meant an extra trip during the day for workers—for poor blacks and whites alike—in addition to the financial burden of having to pay the tax. Sound familiar? Recent studies have shown that, under laws recently passed, hundreds of thousands if not millions of people must obtain the requisite identification in order to vote in 2012, tens of thousands of whom will need to take a day off work and travel at least several miles to apply at agency offices with limited hours and days of operation.

This is the third part of a weeklong series on the history of voter suppression. Tova Wang's new book, the Politics of Voter Suppression, is out now.