To my friends who are skeptical that people can live in the U.S. without a photo ID, imagine the following scenario. Lorraine was born in 1936 at home, in a small farm house in Durham County, North Carolina. She graduated from Hillside Park High School in 1954, just before the new wing was added on. She fell in love with and married Robert, a neighborhood boy four years older than Lorraine. She knew early on he was the one for her and Robert seemed to know it too, but he only spoke up as he was being deployed to Korea. Years later, Lorraine would call that the ‘longest 9 months of her life’ (the time he spent ‘down range’ as they called it), far longer it seemed than it took carrying any of their seven children.
Robert was a good husband and father. He worked hard, was reasonably successful, and they enjoyed a good life together (with some hardships of course) until a heart attack took him in 1995. Lorraine enjoyed raising their children and then doting on their grandchildren but never had to work outside the home. She still lives in the house they raised all seven in. She lives on Robert’s Social Security, his modest VA benefit, and the retirement he saved for them. She has no less than 20 children, grandchildren, and other close relatives who are happy to take Lorraine to doctors appointments, the grocery store, and her weekly hair appointment (always on Friday). Her house is long paid for. She pays her light bill by paper check each month and her phone bill too. Her grandkids keep bugging her to get a cell phone but Lorraine prefers telephones with cords attached.
For identification, Lorraine can offer an electric bill that comes to the house she has lived in and owned for decades. She can show her high school diploma and her Social Security Card and even the deed to her house. But she never had a birth certificate. And she’s never driven and says she doesn’t plan to start now at the age of 79. She has never left Durham County and has no plans to, so she has no need for a passport. She loves the pictures her children and grandchildren bring back from their many trips but she loves her home and her life just fine where she is.
Prior to 2016, Lorraine had no trouble voting with the forms of ID she can provide and she votes as reliably as she gets her hair done, remembering each time the hard fight that won her right to vote when she was in her 30s. But then the North Carolina General Assembly targeted people like Lorraine on purpose, seeking to bar her from voting by requiring forms of identification she doesn’t have and has no reason to get.
It’s easy to assume that everyone has a driver’s license and a birth certificate. But that’s not actually the case. There are many citizens like Lorraine who are natural born U.S. citizens who have a basic right to vote. The North Carolina General Assembly did research on how they could deny people like Lorraine their right to vote. They discovered that requiring photo ID to vote was an easy way to keep elderly, poor, and African American voters locked out from the polls. What they did was morally wrong, racist, and unconstitutional.