A North Carolina law requiring people to have certain kinds of photo identification in order to vote is on trial this week, in a federal courthouse in Winston-Salem. The state passed a voting law in 2013 that even some conservatives have called one of the most restrictive in the nation in terms of the potential burdening effect it could have on women and people of color. The voter ID provision is one part of a broader set of measures included in that law that, among other things, shortens the early voting period and eliminates Election Day voter registration. Those other measures were taken up in a separate federal trial last summer, with a decision currently pending. This week, the voter ID provision is on trial, with the North Carolina state chapter of the NAACP arguing that it will make it harder for African Americans and Latinos to vote, especially when combined with the law’s other restrictions. African-American registered voters are far less likely to have driver’s licenses than white voters.
Meanwhile, driver’s licenses are also becoming less of a priority for people in general. A report from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute released earlier this month finds a “continuous decrease” in the proportion of Americans ages 16 to 44 with a driver’s license from 1983 and 2014. For those between the ages of 45 and 69, their share of people with licenses increased between 1983 and 2008, but have dropped steadily ever since, as seen in the graph below.
… State legislators are a bit out of alignment with Americans’ priorities and daily habits. The National Conference of State Legislatures shows that there are nine states that have photo ID laws that it considers strict, meaning that those states will only accept certain IDs to vote. (A driver’s license is the primary form of acceptable ID in each of those states.) There are states that have voter ID laws that went into effect this year—among them is Alabama, which isfacing a lawsuit over its law. Texas’s voter ID law was ruled unenforceableunder the Civil Rights Act by a federal judge last year. Meanwhile, other states including Missouri are hoping to pass voter ID bills, and will be looking to the outcome of this trial to see whether such laws are constitutional.