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|This article is outdated.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. Due to the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits poll taxes, states that require Voter ID must provide an ID to voters at no cost. 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.
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) 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 thereby weapon permit but not college ID, raising 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, the only state with a Democratic-controlled legislature to do so. In South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley (R) enacted a restrictive 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). However, a judicial order on October 2, 2012, blocked enforcement of Pennsylvania's law until after the 2012 Presidential election, and 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 was the first such ballot defeat for a voter ID law in the country. Representative Keith Ellison, a Democrat representing Minneapolis, remarked that it was "a historic moment" in the nation's political history. Multiple polls before the election had predicted that the proposed constitutional amendment would pass.
State-level voter ID laws fall in one of the following categories:
Strict photo ID (voters must show photo ID at polling place or follow-up with election officials soon after the election if they fail to provide a photo ID when voting): Georgia, Indiana, Kansas and Tennessee. In addition, Mississippi, Texas and South Carolina have strict photo ID laws that must receive, but have not received, approval from the U.S. Justice Department; pending such approval, they all require non-photo ID, except for Mississippi which has no other voter ID law on the books. Pennsylvania & Wisconsin have had their photo ID laws restricted by the U.S. court system, and they will not be in effect for the 2012 election cycle.
Photo ID or alternative (voters at polling place must either show photo ID or meet another state-specific requirements, such as answering personal questions correctly or being vouched for by another voter or poll worker(s) who have a voter ID): Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, South Dakota and New Hampshire.
Non-photo ID (state-specific list of acceptable forms of polling place ID, including a non-photo form): Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia and Washington. Arizona, Ohio and Virginia also have strict, after election follow-up rules for voters that fail to provide the required voter ID when voting at a polling place. Alabama has a newer photo ID law that is scheduled to take effect in 2014, if it gets pre-approval from the U.S. Justice Department.
No ID required at polling place: all other states not noted above.
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.
On June 23, 2012, Pennsylvania's House Majority Leader, Republican Mike Turzai stated that Pennsylvania's recent voter identification law would "allow Governor [Mitt] Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania" in the 2012 U.S. Presidential election.
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||2003||Photo ID|| Law tightened in 2011 to require photo ID as of 2014|
|Georgia||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.|
|Michigan||2007||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.|
|Missouri||Photo ID||In 2006, the existing law was tightened to require photo ID.|
|New Mexico||2005||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.|
|Oklahoma||2010||Oklahoma voters approved a voter ID proposal placed on the ballot by the Legislature|
|Pennsylvania||2012||Law blocked by Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson.|
|South Carolina||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.|
|Tennessee||Photo ID||Law tightened in 2011.|
|Texas||Photo ID||Law tightened in 2011. Justice Department rejected the Texas law as placing an undue burden disproportionately on minority voters.|
|Wisconsin||2011||Two state circuit judges in Dane County, Wisconsin block 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 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 rules Voter ID law is constitutional, but the requirement remains blocked by a seperate case |
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