When sophomore Nicole Lennon considered registering to vote in Marion County for the 2012 election, she was taken aback by Indiana state voter identification laws.
Lennon, who is from Michigan, does not possess the proper identification to vote in Indiana because she does not have an Indiana driver’s license or passport.
Indiana’s voting laws require a very specific form of identification to vote: an Indiana or federal government-issued form of ID with a photo and expiration date.
Essentially, a voter must have an Indiana driver’s license, state ID, military ID or passport to vote in Indiana.
Because of these requirements, Lennon decided not to vote at all in the upcoming election.
“It would have been too much of a hassle to get my vote in at home,” Lennon said. “I would have either had to absentee vote, go back home or purchase some kind of identification in Indiana.”
Beth White, Marion County clerk, said strict voter identification laws confuse and hinder many voters every year.
“It catches up a lot of people,” White said. “It may seem like everyone has a state ID, but the reality is that this is certainly not true.”
Some Indiana colleges have already begun taking new measures, including providing students with IDs that have expiration dates and would be suitable for voting.
Butler University IDs are not acceptable forms of identification because they are not state-issued and do not include an expiration date.
Out-of-state college students are not the only voters affected, White said.
Older people who no longer drive, people without birth certificates who, in turn, cannot obtain a state ID card, and people who have had their licenses taken away for various reasons are all affected by these strict rules.
“It’s really very frustrating to turn people away from the polls,” White said. “It restricts people’s options to vote and makes it truly impossible for some people to vote.”
Angie Nussmeyer, press secretary for Beth White and Marion County election administrator, said problems due resulting from strict ID laws can be frustrating for voters as well as staff and volunteers.
“Last Saturday, one woman showed us her Marion County sheriff department’s ID,” Nussmeyer said. “She couldn’t use it because it lacked an expiration date.”
White said an encounter earlier last week resulted in her having to turn away a Marion County resident at the polls.
Election board program coordinator Patrick Becker works directly with poll workers that check information and identification of voters in Marion County.
“While there are laws that allow people to vote by mail, they don’t apply to everyone,” Becker said. “There’s just a lack of education on the ID law itself typically until you are affected by them and turned away at the polls. It’s definitely a hindrance to voters.”
Larry Kelley, an Indianapolis resident who voted early in Marion County, said he sees a definite issue with the voter ID laws.
“There are some people, like the elderly, who don’t drive,” Kelley said. “I think these laws are keeping some people from voting when, really, the government should be encouraging them to vote.”
White said she believes the laws are in place to prevent a non-existent problem of voter fraud in the state and are, at the same time, keeping people from voting.
“The idea is to prevent voter impersonation, but there has never been a single case of in-person document fraud in an election in the state of Indiana,” she said.
White said she sees the strictness of these laws as they affect young people as potentially harmful to future generations’ relationship with government and politics.
“Young people now may become disaffected with politics,” White said. “If these laws are discouraging people now, that feeling could very likely linger for years to come.”