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People without IDs face barriers for voting

A blue photo with red text saying "An ID Today is a Vote Tomorrow"
Courtesy of Spread the Vote
Indiana is strict in what kind of ID they will accept for voting and other purposes.

When Hoosiers go to vote, they are required to bring a government-issued photo ID with them. For groups such as youth without driver's licenses or people of color with no ID, this presents a challenge.

Kat Calvin is the founder and executive director of Spread the Vote and Project ID. These two organizations focus on making voting more accessible and helping individuals obtain IDs. Calvin said some groups are less likely to have IDs than others.

“Studies have shown and we certainly see this, anecdotally and through our own data, that people of color, young people, very elderly people, returning citizens, foster youth are a lot of groups of folks for whom getting an ID is more difficult,” she said.

Young people may not have driver's licenses because young people are not driving as much as they used to. Calvin said much of this is likely because fewer schools are teaching driver’s education than they used to.

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Project ID also works with many older people born in rural areas and who never received a birth certificate. The group helps individuals get identification and aids in other situations that prevent them from having a birth certificate.

On top of this, Calvin said Indiana is strict in what kind of ID they will accept for voting and other purposes.

“It has to have very specific information on it,” she said. “It has to be issued by either the federal government or the state of Indiana and it has to have not expired,” she said.

Under Indiana’s 2005 voter ID law, your photo identification must meet four criteria: it must display your photo, your name (though, it doesn’t have to be a perfect match), an expiration date and either be current or have expired sometime after the date of the last General Election, and issued by the state of Indiana or the U.S. government.

There are a handful of photo IDs that fall into those categories. An Indiana driver’s license, a U.S. passport, Indiana State Identification Card, or military ID card all work. And student IDs at Indiana state colleges and universities may also work – as long as they follow the rest of the criteria. However, students at private institutions may not use student IDs for voting.

She added many people are unclear on how to get IDs.

“The challenge is the cost of the ID or the documents or just understanding bureaucratically how to go about,” she said. “Things like getting that birth certificate, proving residency, things like that.”

Calvin said there are more than 21 million Americans who do not have a photo ID. She said this problem stretches far beyond voting.

“There are so many things that people need ID for before they even get to voting – you need it for jobs, and for housing, and for health care, and for all the things that allow people to have the safety and security to then even be able to really think about voting,” she said.

Calvin encourages those who are looking to get an ID through the organization to visit their website.

She added the organization also has a political arm through the Project ID Action fund. The organization just introduced a bill to congress – The IDs for an Inclusive Democracy Act – which would create a free federal ID. To support this, you can visit this website.

Contact reporter Violet at or follow her on Twitter at @ComberWilen.