BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE at NYU School of Law VOTING RIGHTS &
CITIZENS WITHOUT PROOF:
A SURVEY OF AMERICANS’ POSSESSION OF DOCUMENTARY
PROOF OF CITIZENSHIP AND PHOTO IDENTIFICATION
A recent national survey sponsored by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of
Law reveals that millions of American citizens do not have readily available documentary
proof of citizenship. Many more – primarily women – do not have proof of citizenship
with their current name. The survey also showed that millions of American citizens do
not have government-issued photo identification, such as a driver’s license or passport.
Finally, the survey demonstrated that certain groups – primarily poor, elderly, and
minority citizens – are less likely to possess these forms of documentation than the
From November 16-19, 2006, the independent Opinion Research Corporation conducted
a telephone survey of 987 randomly selected voting-age American citizens.1 The survey
included several questions sponsored by the Brennan Center, asking whether respondents
had readily available documentary proof of citizenship or government-issued photo
identification, and if so, whether it contained current information:
1) Do you have a current, unexpired government-issued ID with your picture on
it, like a driver’s license or a military ID?
2) If yes, does this photo ID have both your current address AND your current
name (as opposed to a maiden name) on it?
3) Do you have any of the following citizenship documents (U.S. birth
certificate/U.S. passport/U.S. naturalization papers) in a place where you can
quickly find it if you had to show it tomorrow?
4) If yes, does [that document] have your current name on it (as opposed to a
1 Scholars recognize that many telephone surveys underrepresent low-income and minority households.
See, e.g., Stephen J. Blumberg et al., Telephone Coverage and He