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The ID Divide: Addressing the Challenges of Identification and Authentication in American Society

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Publication Date: June 2008

Publisher(s): Center for American Progress

Author(s): Peter Swire; Cassandra Q. Butts

Funder(s): Center for American Progress

Funder(s): Center for American Progress

Topic: Politics (Elections and voting)

Type: Report

Coverage: Indiana

Abstract:

How individuals identify themselves in our country grows more complex by the year. Just last month, 12 nuns were turned away from voting booths during the Indiana presidential primary because they lacked state identification (none of them drives), a stark reminder that the recent Supreme Court ruling that upheld Indiana’s voter ID law poses lasting consequences to our democracy. And two years ago last month the personal identification data of 26.5 million veterans were lost from a government laptop, the latest in a series of data breaches that threaten the integrity of everyone’s identification.

Those 12 nuns are among 20 million other voting age citizens without driver’s licenses, and they join those 26.5 million veterans and many millions of other Americans who suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of what we call the ID Divide—Americans who lack official identification, suffer from identity theft, are improperly placed on watch lists, or otherwise face burdens when asked for identification. The problems of these uncredentialed people are largely invisible to credentialed Americans, many of whom have a wallet full of proofs of identity. Yet those on the wrong side of the ID Divide are finding themselves squeezed out of many parts of daily life, including finding a job, opening a bank account, flying on an airplane, and even exercising the right to vote.