Trump appears not to understand grocery shopping in latest push for voter ID laws in the US

US President Donald Trump Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared not to understand how grocery shopping, or any kind of retail shopping, works.
  • During a rally in Tampa, Florida, Trump said that if “you want to buy anything, you need ID and you need your picture,” but this isn’t true for buying standard groceries.
  • Trump mentioned grocery shopping to make the case for voter ID laws, which he supports.
  • It comes alongside his unfounded belief that millions voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election, which a 2017 investigation failed to prove.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared not to understand how grocery shopping – or any kind of retail shopping – works.

While making the case for requiring voters to show picture identification at polls, Trump, who has long alleged without evidence that millions of votes were illegally cast in the 2016 presidential election, said that basically all retail transactions required picture ID.

“You know, if you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card, you need ID,” Trump said at a rally in Tampa, Florida, supporting GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis’ gubernatorial bid. “You go out and you want to buy anything, you need ID and you need your picture.”

How you actually buy groceries

Supermarket grocery store checkout
If you’re paying cash for a bunch of bananas, never mind the ID. OrelPhoto /

Retail transactions in the US rarely require ID anymore. Shoppers paying with a check or card may have to produce ID, but this is largely done at the retailer’s discretion and is much less common of a feature than it was a generation ago.

Purchases of tobacco, alcohol, fireworks, or firearms (which are sometimes available in grocery stores) also generally prompt an ID check if the shopper appears visibly below certain broad age thresholds. For example, a shopper who appears under 40 years old may have to show an ID to buy cigarettes.

But tobacco, alcohol, and explosives don’t meet the common definition of groceries. The US government, when issuing food stamps, essentially government money for groceries, takes measures to ensure they’re spent on foodstuffs, rather than age-restricted goods.

How you actually vote

Donald Trump voting booth
Trump voting at his local polling station in New York’s primary on April 19, 2016. Getty Images/Spencer Platt

Trump last year launched an investigation into illegal voting, and it ended early this year with no significant findings. A 2012 Pew study found millions of out-of-date voter registrations but no evidence of voter fraud.

From the National Conference of State Legislatures:

“A total of 34 states have laws requesting or requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls, all of which are in force in 2018 … The remaining 16 states use other methods to verify the identity of voters.

“Most frequently, other identifying information provided at the polling place, such as a signature, is checked against information on file.”

Critics have condemned voter ID laws, frequently championed by Republicans, as a tool to disenfranchise populations with poor access to government services.

Campaigners against voter ID laws say they disproportionately affect minorities and poor populations, often discouraging or prohibiting them from voting.

Online, Trump’s apparent failure to grasp how grocery shopping takes place became a joke for several prominent White House reporters who gravitated toward a central question: When, if ever, has Trump bought groceries?