Voter ID laws in the United States
|This article is outdated. (October 2012)|
A voter ID law is a law that requires some form of identification in order to vote or receive a ballot for an election.
In the United States, voter ID laws are in place in 30 states. At the federal level, the 2002 Help America Vote Act requires a voter ID for all new voters in federal elections who registered by mail and who did not provide a driver's license number or the last four digits of a Social Security number that was matched against government records.
Push for photo ID requirements
Twelve states, including the battleground state of Virginia, now require voters to show some form of photo identification (see table below), with approximately thirteen other states pursuing similar legislation. Some of the states that were pursuing new photo identification requirements were legally bound to apply for Federal Preclearance prior to enacting any new election laws. Federal Preclearance stems from the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, in the 2013 case Shelby County v. Holder, the United States Supreme Court struck down Section 4(b) of the Act and its formula for requiring preclearance as unconstitutional based on current conditions, saying it was rational and needed at the time it was enacted but is no longer an accurate formula, based on the changing demographics of the country. In effect, Federal Preclearance is no longer a requirement until its formula can be deemed as constitutional, and states (such as Texas) that have passed photo identification requirements but were waiting for Federal Preclearance may now immediately take effect.
In 1999, Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore (R) attempted to start a pilot program that required voters to show IDs at the polls. His initiative was blocked by Democrats and the NAACP, and was stopped by court order. His administration had spent and mailed $275,000 worth of free voter ID cards to residents in Arlington and Fairfax counties. In the aftermath of the 2000 election, where George W. Bush narrowly won Florida by 537 votes, the American public and lawmakers became more receptive to measures against voter fraud. In 2002, President Bush signed the Help America Vote Act into law, which required all first-time voters in federal elections to show photo or non-photo ID upon either registration or arrival at the polling place.
In 2004, Arizona passed a law requiring voters to bring a state-issued photo ID to the polling place. Similar proposals were discussed in various other states and were passed in some cases. In several states a person's citizenship status is noted on their photo ID.
Indiana passed a law in 2005 requiring a photo ID be shown by all voters before casting ballots. Civil rights groups in Indiana launched a lawsuit, Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, that reached the Supreme Court in 2008. The Court ruled that the law was constitutional, paving the way for expanded laws in other states.
In 2011, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) (WI Act 23) and Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) enacted similar laws. Texas Governor Rick Perry placed a voter ID bill as an "emergency item" in 2011, allowing legislators to rush it through the process. Jurisdiction over Texas election procedure is given to the Department of Justice, which must pre-clear the law for approval. Texas law recognizes government issued photo identification and weapons permits but not college IDs, raising the criticism that the law is unfavorable to young voters, who trend liberal, while favorable to gun owners, who trend conservative. Rhode Island passed a voter ID law in 2011, and it is the only state with a Democratic-controlled legislature to do so. In South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley (R) enacted a law requiring government-issued IDs at the polls, and supplied voters with free IDs and carpools to state DMVs; however, the ID requirement was blocked by the Justice Department. Wisconsin's Voter ID law provided free IDs to people who did not have them. In practice, state employees at the DMV were instructed to provide the IDs for free only if people specifically asked to have their fee waived. A Wisconsin state employee was fired for telling other employees that the IDs were free by law, and that they should inform people who may need them to vote. For the time being, the requirement to show photo ID has since been declared in violation of the Wisconsin Constitution and blocked by state judges.
Pennsylvania's voter ID law allowed various forms of photo identification cards, including those held by drivers, government employees, in-state college students, and residents of elder-care facilities. Voters who do not possess these forms of identification can obtain voting-only photo IDs issued by the Pennsylvania Department of State through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). A judicial order on October 2, 2012 blocked enforcement of Pennsylvania's law until after the 2012 Presidential election. Following a trial in the summer of 2013 and a six month delay, Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard L. McGinley struck down Pennsylvania's voter ID law as violative of the constitutional rights of state voters on Jan 17, 2014. Required IDs were only available through 71 PennDOT Drivers Licensing Centers across the state. Five of the 71 DLCs are located in Philadelphia, nine counties have no DLCs at all, and DLCs are openly only one day per week in nine counties and two days per week thirteen counties. The Pennsylvania Department of State provided too little access, no financial support to providing IDs to those without access, and no alternatives to obtaining the required IDs. Judge McGinley found that this leaves about half of Pennsylvania without DLCs for five days a week, imposing a significant barrier to obtaining Pennsylvania's "free ID". Photo IDs are not required to vote in PA.
Voters in Minnesota rejected a voter ID proposal on the 2012 general election ballot by a margin of 54-46%. It is the only such ballot defeat for a voter ID law in the country.
Then NCSL web site distinguishes strict from non-strict as follows:
In the "strict" states, a voter cannot cast a valid ballot without first presenting ID. Voters who are unable to show ID at the polls are given a provisional ballot. Those provisional ballots are kept separate from the regular ballots. If the voter returns to election officials within a short period of time after the election (generally a few days) and presents acceptable ID, the provisional ballot is counted. If the voter does not come back to show ID, that provisional ballot is never counted.
The NCSL places state-level voter ID laws in one of the following categories:
Strict photo ID in effect: Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Tennessee, and Texas. In addition Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin have strict photo ID laws that are not yet in effect.
Photo ID in effect: Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, and South Dakota. In addition Alabama has a photo ID requirement not yet in effect.
Strict non-photo ID in effect: Arizona, Ohio, and Virginia.
Non-photo ID in effect: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington.
No ID required at polling place: California, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming do not require ID to vote.
In 2007, a report prepared by the staff of the federal Election Assistance Commission found that, among experts, "there is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud". The report was based on research conducted by Job Serebov, Republican elections lawyer, and Tova Wang, voting expert from the Century Foundation. The final version released to the public, however, stated that there was "a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud." Democrats charged that the commission, with a Republican majority, had altered the conclusion for political reasons, which the commission denied. During the George W. Bush administration, "The [Department of Justice] devoted unprecedented resources to ferreting out polling-place fraud over five years and appears to have found not a single prosecutable case across the country," Slate reported.
The Democratic Party has criticized voter identification laws, voicing concerns that the laws could lead to disenfranchisement of poor, minority or elderly voters. In 2011, the civil rights group The Advancement Project was critical of the laws, saying they disproportionately impact blacks and Latinos. According to another report commissioned by the Election Assistance Commission, one effect of voter identification laws is lower turnout, especially among members of minorities. However, in 2012, an investigation by Reuters found that voter ID laws in Georgia and Indiana had not led to lower turnout of minorities and concluded that Democratic concerns about this "are probably overstated". The news agency reported that in Georgia there was an increase of four percent in turnout for African American voters in 2008, compared to 2004, which was prior to the voter ID law. In the 2010 Georgia midterm elections, turnout for African Americans was seven percent higher than the midterms in 2006, before the voter ID law was introduced. In Indiana, while no information is collected on race of voters, Reuters found that voter turnout increased in 2008 for two counties with non-white populations higher than 40 percent. Also, in the Indiana midterm elections of 2006 and 2010, turnout increased compared to the 2002 election before the voter ID law was introduced. In October 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported that studies of the impact of voter ID laws on turnout have had inconclusive results, particularly since most of the laws were introduced prior to the 2008 election, which had high levels of voter turnout. Additionally, studies may be influenced by other factors that impact individuals' likelihood of voting.
A study by New York University's Brennan Center claimed that of the US population that is of voting age, 11% lack government-issued photo IDs. A paper in the Harvard Law and Policy Review, “ID at the Polls: Assessing the Impact of Recent State Voter ID Laws on Voter Turnout”(PDF), compares changes in voter turnout between 2002 and 2006 as related to three voting requirement categories – photo ID needed, non-photo ID needed and no identification needed. Key study findings include: 1). “Non-photo ID laws [are] associated with a 2.2% point decline in turnout, and photo ID laws are correlated with a 1.6% point decline.” In a related analysis, the author found a 1.1% decline in turnout in states with strengthened photo ID laws between 2002 and 2006. 2). In 2002, prior to the widespread adoption of photo ID poll requirements, more than 40% of eligible voters in states with no voting ID requirements and more than 35% of voters in states with minimal ID requirements turned out at the polls. By 2006, the percentage of voting-age citizens who turned out in states with no ID requirement or a non-photo ID requirement increased to 42% and 38%, respectively. States requiring a photo voter ID saw the lowest percentage of voter turnout, approximately 37%. 3). Counties with older populations saw an increase in turnout of 1.5%. However, counties with higher Hispanic and Asian-American populations saw a small negative effect on voter turnout as ID laws were tightened. Greater household income positively correlated with voter turnout. 4). Possible variables impacting overall voter turnout include Election Day registration (associated with increases), the presence of an incumbent (a small increase) or a controversial ballot initiative (a 4.6% point increase in voter turnout). Much of the increase in voter turnout can be attributed to news coverage and state-sponsored public outreach.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, disputed the methodology of the study of 900 people. The credibility of the survey was contested by another question, where 14% of respondents said they had both a U.S. birth certificate and naturalization papers. In 2010, the voting age population was an estimated 237.3 million, and the citizen voting age population was 217.5 million. Of those, 186.9 million were registered voters. The Heritage Foundation has pointed to U.S. Department of Transportation records showing that there were 205.8 million valid drivers licenses in 2009, meaning there are 19 million more individuals with photo ID than there are registered voters, as evidence that photo ID is not hard to obtain. Similarly, Kris Kobach, a Republican supporter of Voter ID laws, points to evidence in Kansas that more than 30,000 registered drivers in Kansas are not registered to vote.
Public opinion polls have shown strong support for voter ID laws amongst voters in the United States. A 2011 Rasmussen poll found that 75% of likely voters “believe voters should be required to show photo identification, such as a driver’s license, before being allowed to vote.” A 2012 Fox News poll showed 70% of voters supported requiring an ID to vote, and 26% were opposed. Voter ID laws were supported by 52% of Democrats, 72% of independents and 87% of Republicans.
Laws by State
|State||Date||Type of Law||Notes|
|Alabama||Photo ID|| Law tightened in 2011 to require photo ID as of 2014 But still has not obtained federal preclearance In 2013, Attorney General Strange believes that the Photo ID law can now be implemented in 2014 due to the Supreme Court case of Shelby County v. Holder.|
|Alaska||Photo ID||Rep. Bob Lynn drafting a bill to implement Photo ID law as of December 2012|
|Arizona||Non-photographic forms of ID are accepted at polling places as of 2013|
|Arkansas||2014||Photo ID||Photo ID bill passed by lawmakers in 2013, and survived a veto by the Governor. Pre-clearance is not needed for Arkansas, and the bill is now law. Law will be enacted when free ID cards can be issued, or in January 2014, whichever is later.|
|California||In most cases, California voters are not required to show identification before they cast ballots.|
|Colorado||Non-photographic forms of ID allowed at polling places as of 2013.|
|Connecticut||Photo ID||In 2013, the Governor signed a Photo ID bill into law. Several lawsuits are currently delaying implementation.|
|Delaware||Non-photographic forms of ID allowed at polling places as of 2013.|
|Florida||Photo ID||Photo ID required when voting in person.|
|Georgia||2006||Photo ID||Existing law tightened in 2005 to require a photo ID; In 2006, passed a law providing for the issuance of voter ID cards at no cost to registered voters who do not have a driver's license or state-issued ID card. Photo ID was required to vote in the 2012 elections.|
|Hawaii||1978||Photo ID||Photo ID required when voting in person.|
|Idaho||Voters may sign a Personal Identification Affidavit if they do not possess a Photo ID at the polls.|
|Illinois||Republican Senators authoring a bill for Photo ID.|
|Indiana||2005||Photo ID||Photo ID required when voting in person.|
|Iowa||Photo ID||Iowa Senate did not pass a Photo ID bill.|
|Kansas||2011||Photo ID||Photo ID required for in person voting, registration requires proof of citizenship, i.e., passport, birth certificate.|
|Kentucky||A citizen may vote if they have Photo ID, or if a precinct officer can vouch for the voter.|
|Louisiana||Voters may use non-photographic identification at the polling place.|
|Maine||No ID needed at polling place if registered to vote at least 1 day prior to election.|
|Maryland||Photo ID||Republicans sponsored a House Bill requiring Photo ID in 2013.|
|Massachusetts||Non-photographic ID is accepted at polling stations.|
|Michigan||Passed in 1996, but ruled invalid until a State Supreme Court ruling in 2007. Voters are requested to show photo ID or sign a statement saying they do not have valid ID in their possession at the time. Either way, the voter will not be turned away.|
|Minnesota||Non-photographic ID is accepted at polling stations.|
|Mississippi||Photo ID||Governor signed Photo ID bill into law in 2012. The bill will now be required to go through Pre-Clearance check from the federal government. Voting Rights Act Ruling in 2013 clears the way for Mississippi to enact new Photo ID requirement in 2014.|
|Missouri||Photo ID||In 2006, the existing law was tightened to require photo ID. In 2006, State Supreme Court blocks law. In 2013, State House passes Voter ID law, needs to be approved by State Senate, and voters in November 2014 elections.|
|Montana||Montana Voter ID Bill killed in 2013.|
|Nebraska||Photo ID||Lawmakers are revisiting a Photo ID bill in 2013.|
|Nevada||Photo ID||Secretary of State sponsors a bill for Photo ID in 2012.|
|New Hampshire||Photo ID||NH Senate working on a Photo ID bill in 2013.|
|New Jersey||Non-photographic forms of ID are accepted at the polls.|
|New Mexico||Law Repealed||In 2008, the existing voter ID law was relaxed, and now allows a voter to satisfy the ID requirement by stating his/her name, address as registered, and year of birth.|
|New York||Non-photographic ID accepted at polling stations|
|North Carolina||Photo ID||In 2013, the state House passed a bill that requires voters to show a photo ID when they go to the polls by 2016.|
|North Dakota||ND Senate passes bill that would require Photo identification OR a person with Photo ID to vouch for a voter without ID.|
|Oklahoma||Photo ID||Oklahoma voters approved a voter Photo ID proposal placed on the ballot by the Legislature. The only non-photo form of ID accepted at the polls is the voter's registration card.|
|Ohio||Photo ID||With strong Republican majorities in Ohio House and Senate, the Photo ID bill is expected to be revisited.|
|Oregon||Mail Ballots Only||Oregon has no polling stations. Ballots are mailed in. Non-photographic forms of ID are accepted for voting registration. Information required on voting ballots, such as Last 4 SSN, or Drivers License Number, could not be referenced.|
|Pennsylvania||Photo ID||Law struck down by Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard L. McGinley on 17 January 2014 as "violative of the constitutional rights of state voters" after first full evidentiary trial since Shelby v Holder. The law was found, by preponderance of evidence, to place undue burden on hundreds of thousands of already registered voters due to a lack of infrastructure and state support for obtaining required IDs.|
|Rhode Island||2014||Photo ID||RI requires Photo ID at the polls in 2014.|
|South Carolina||2013||Photo ID||Law tightened in 2011. Justice Department rejected South Carolina's law as placing an undue burden disproportionately on minority voters. On October 10, 2012 the US District Court uphold South Carolina Voter ID law though the law won't take effect till 2013. In March 2013, all voters were required to show Photo ID when voting at the primaries.|
|South Dakota||If a voter does not possess a photo ID at the polling place, then the voter may complete an affidavit of personal identification.|
|Tennessee||2011||Photo ID||Law tightened in 2011. Tennessee voters were required to show Photo ID during the 2012 elections.|
|Texas||Photo ID||Law tightened in 2011. Justice Department rejected the Texas law as placing an undue burden disproportionately on minority voters. 2013 Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder strikes down Justice Department's ability to reject the Texas law. Photo ID requirements are to "immediately take effect" according to Texas Attorney General Abbot.|
|Utah||Non-photographic forms of ID are accepted at polling stations.|
|Vermont||No ID required to vote at polling stations.|
|Virginia||Photo ID||Lawmakers pass Voter ID bill in 2010, Governor implements it in a way that allows non-photo ID. After 2012 election, legislature passes new law stipulating that non-photo ID's cannot be used. Governor signs Photo ID requirement into law in 2013. Law would have needed to pass "pre-clearance" by the US Department of Justice under the 1965 Voting Rights Act (certain states and jurisdictions, mostly in the southern states were required to wait for pre-clearance before changing voting laws ). Supreme Court Voting Rights Act ruling on June 26 removes section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, clearing the way for Virginia to enact the new Photo ID requirement in 2014.|
|Washington||Mail Ballots Only||Washington has no polling stations. Ballots are mailed in.|
|West Virginia||Photo ID||Republicans are preparing a Photo ID bill in 2013.|
|Wisconsin||Photo ID||Two state circuit judges in Dane County, Wisconsin blocked the ID requirement provisions of that state's law, with the first judge issuing a temporary injunction, followed by the second judge a week later ruling the requirement was in violation of the Wisconsin Constitution. The fate of the law is uncertain, as the Republican-led State Department of Justice fights the ruling in court. Wisconsin appeals court ruled that the Voter ID law is constitutional, but the requirement remains blocked by a separate case.|
|Wyoming||No ID needed at polling stations.|
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