Do you want to buy an alcoholic drink? You are required to present a photo ID with your date of birth. Do you want to use an online poker application? You are required to show a photo ID with your birth.
For a majority of Americans that is usually not a problem.
According the Federal Highway Administration’s website, this is breakdown of licensed driver’s in the US (numbers from 2021):
- All ages: 84.1%
- 16 to 19 year olds: 34.8% (High school)
- 20 to 24 year olds: 80.8% (College age)
- 25 to 49 year olds: 90.1% (post high school, working age)
- 50 to 69 year olds: 93.5% (work age, almost at retirement age)
- 70 to 84 year olds: 84.9% (post retirement age, may no longer be driving)
- 85 and older: 60.1% (post retirement, may no longer be driving)
The state with the lowest number of licensed drivers is Kansas.
But this does not indicate if a person does not have a valid photo ID. Every state allows a person to obtain an official state ID card.
In 2012, there was a study to determine the number of people who had a government issued state ID card. This is the breakdown based on race.
- Blacks having a valid photo ID: 87%
- Hispanics having a valid photo ID: 90%
- White having a valid photo ID: 95%
By income levels:
- With income less than $25,000 per year: 88%
- With income greater than $150,000 per year: 98%
- 17 to 20 year olds: 85%
- 21 to 24 year olds: 89%
We need to take into account that for most things that high school students do and college students do, using a valid high school photo ID or a college photo ID is acceptable.
Other forms of ID that are considered valid for most purposes:
- Passport that has a photo.
Border states now combine a passport with a valid state ID card. This would probably explain why 90% of Hispanics have a valid state ID compared to 87% of blacks.
- Military Photo ID card
- Boat license
- US Military photo retiree card
- Firearm purchase card
- Public assistance card with photo
- Veterans Affairs universal access photo ID card
Here are some more interesting numbers:
- Income below $25,000 – 88% have a valid ID
- Income between $25,000 to 29,999 – 92%
- Income between $30,000 to $34,000 – 90%
- Income between $35,000 to $39,000 – 94%
The rest range between 91% and 98%. But why is there a difference between the $25,000 to $29,999 group and the group below and above it. Why does this group have a higher number of people with a valid government ID?
The answer is government assistance programs. “For a family of three, the poverty line used to calculate SNAP benefits in federal fiscal year 2021 is $1,810 a month. Thus, 130 percent of the poverty line for a three-person family is $2,353 a month, or about $28,200 a year.” When you get government assistance, you are automatically provided a free government ID card that is considered a valid government ID card.
Most states require a person to buy a State ID card, including liberal states like California, Oregon, Washington, New York, Chicago, and New Jersey. But these same states give a government assistance ID card for free. That is besides the lowest income bracket, people right outside the range for government assistance have the highest rate of not having a valid ID card.
So how do we solve this problem?
First, educate the public that State ID cards are valid ID cards. Look at the survey sponsored by the government. “Do you have a valid Driver’s license or Passport?” No mention of a valid State ID card. Even clerks in official government offices with a sign above their head saying that a State ID card is valid ID card sometimes refuse to accept an official State ID card as a valid ID card – but they will accept a college ID card. This actually happened to my brother in law, so I know for a fact that it does happen.
Second, let’s fix the problem of 16 to 24 year olds. For their first ID, give it to them for free. A lot of kids do not want to spend the money for an ID if using their school ID takes care of their basic needs (getting into the movies, buying cigarettes, buying alcohol, etc.) Next, during college fairs or job fairs setup a booth for getting your official state ID. The restrictions are no less. It is just that the system is mobile. Yes, most kids will move numerous times during the next 5 to 10 years, but at least they will have something. It can even be combined with local businesses to encourage kids to shop locally.
Third, change non-driver’s license state ID cards to be renewed every 10 years, instead of every 4 years. For senior citizens, make it 20 years. Most senior citizens are not bouncing around from state to state. Maybe combine it with local businesses to provide seniors with a discount to shop locally.
Four, make it “fun” to get a state ID. Do you see the vanity plates where you can get different pictures on them and a portion of what you pay goes to a charity organization? For example, the license plate with a tiger on it gives the “profit” from the vanity plate to the Philadelphia zoo. What about doing something similar with State issued ID cards. The front of the card has the official information on it. But the back of the card can have a vanity picture that supports different charities. If a person wants to support the Philadelphia Zoo, they buy the tiger. If they want to support “green energy”, they buy the one with the windmill and solar panel.
Five, provide a method for people to combine IDs. ID’s have computer chips. So theoretically, your state ID card could also store your bus and train account information. You no longer have to carry around both a bus card and state ID. One card would store information for both. Some people may like this idea, while others may not. But since the lowest income group is the group most likely to use public transportation …
Six, create federal ID. Right now, the federal ID that is issued by the Department of Homeland Security is just a combined state ID card and your passport, so you do not have to carry around both documents. But you still need to obtain the ID from your State ID office, which is usually the Department of Motor Vehicles office.
Seven, should expired Driver’s licenses just turn into a valid non-driver’s license ID card? It is understandable why a driver’s license needs to be current, but what about a non-driver’s license? Unless a person has moved to another state, and handed in their old driver’s license for a new one in their new state, is there a valid reason to invalidate a non-driver’s license ID card? When we count expired driver’s licenses the number of people without a valid photo ID is higher than if we included expired driver’s licenses that we just convert to non-driver’s license ID cards. So if we take away the expired part (or just say that non-driver’s licenses have to be renewed every 10 years), the number of people without a valid photo ID goes down even more.
Kansas was the state with the lowest number of people with ID cards, so I was curious to know what is needed to obtain an ID card.
- Proof of identity, you are who you say you are (certified US Birth Certificate, US Passport, US Naturalization certificate)
- Proof of residency (Utility bill, w-2 form, school tuition bill, rental agreement)
- Social Security card, Resident Alien Card)
There are more details, but who exactly would have trouble obtaining these documents. Yes, if you lose your birth certificate, it can be a pain to replace it, but it can be done. But is the solution to take away this requirement or would a better solution be to provide once a month “free help getting your official ID card” at local libraries and community centers?
There is also the requirement for proving residency. Most people live somewhere either by themselves or with roommates. Or you have a job. If you have a job, there is not a problem. If you live by yourself with either a utility bill or a lease in your name, it is not a problem. So what about people who have roommates? Guess what, a bank statement also works or a credit card bill or an official government letter.
What about the handicapped. People with physical handicaps can get additional “free rides” if public transportation is not enough. So a physical handicap should not stand in the way of getting an ID card.
Bottom line, in my opinion, the solution to the disparity between Blacks, Hispanics, and low income people in general, not having valid ID cards is not to take the requirement of needing an ID card. The solution is to take away the “red tape” — free state non-driver’s license ID cards (money issue). Setup mobile registration booths at job fairs, college fairs, high schools, colleges, community centers, and senior centers (bring registration to the people that have the lowest numbers). Provide vanity ID cards (add vanity to the problem). Plain old education that non-driver’s license ID cards are available and free.