Voter ID laws in the United States
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 thirty-three 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 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, which contains the formula determining which states are required to seek 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 that had passed photo identification requirements but had not received federal preclearance were allowed to immediately take effect.
Voter ID Laws go back to 1950 when South Carolina became the first state to start requesting identification from voters at the polls. The identification document did not have to include a picture; any document with the name of the voter sufficed. In 1970, Hawaii joined in requiring ID, and Texas a year later. Florida was next in 1977, and Alaska in 1980 to become the first five states in the United States to request identification of some sort from voters at the polls.
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 had been given to the Department of Justice, which was required to pre-clear the law for approval. The Texas law recognized government issued photo identification and weapons permits but not college IDs, raising the criticism that the law was 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, which included provisions for the issuance of free IDs; Haley made a one-time offer to arrange for voter ID applicants to be driven to issuing locations. 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. The requirement to show photo ID had been declared in violation of the Wisconsin Constitution and blocked by state and federal judges, then those decisions were overturned by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and later the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Weeks later, the U.S. Supreme Court again blocked the law for 2014. On March 23, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the ACLU, effectively upholding the 7th Circuit's decision Wisconsin's voter ID law is constitutional.
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 January 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 open 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.
In states with non-strict voter ID laws, other methods of validation are allowed; this varies by state. Possible alternatives are: signing an affidavit, having a poll worker vouch for voter, having election officials verify a voter's identity after the vote is cast, or having the voter return an inquiry mailed to their reported address. In states with strict ID laws, the voter is required to take additional action after the provisional ballot is cast to verify ID.
The NCSL places state-level voter ID laws in one of the following categories:
Strict photo ID in effect: Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. In addition, North Carolina and Wisconsin have strict photo ID laws that are not yet in effect.
Photo ID in effect: Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and South Dakota.
Strict non-photo ID in effect: Arizona, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina.
Non-photo ID in effect: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Utah, and Washington.
No ID required at polling place: California, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming, and Washington, D.C. do not require ID to vote.
Studies and analysis
A 2005 report by Former President Jimmy Carter and Former Secretary of State James Baker concluded that concerns of both those who support and oppose strengthened voter ID laws were legitimate. It recommended voter ID requirements be enacted, to be slowly phased in over a period of five years, and accompanied by the issuance of free ID cards provided by mobile ID vans that would visit traditionally underserved communities. In 2007, a report prepared by the staff of the federal Election Assistance Commission also concluded that "there is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud."
Proponents of voter ID laws cite the registration of dead and out-of-state voters as a major vulnerability in the electoral system. A 2012 report by the Pew Center showed that over 1.8 million dead people remain registered to vote nationwide. The same report found 3 million voters registered in multiple states, presumably due to changes of residency. Proponents of voter ID laws fear that motivated individuals could exploit registration irregularities to impersonate dead voters or impersonate former state residents, casting multiple fraudulent ballots.
Several instances of alleged voter fraud have surfaced across the nation. In 2013, state election officials found at least 81 dead voters in North Carolina and 92 dead voters in Oregon. Of the 6,000 dead people registered to vote in Nassau County, NY in 2013, 270 of them had cast ballots at some point since their deaths, though county officials blamed many of the fraudulent votes on clerical errors.Historical examples include the 1997 Miami ballot fraud, which tainted the city's mayoral election and produced 36 arrests. Other commentators, such as Lorraine Minnite of Demos believe voter ID laws are worthwhile regardless of proven voter fraud because a "low level of voter fraud... does not preclude the need for continued vigilance to ensure the integrity of election systems."
Concerns have also arisen over voting by foreign nationals. A 2014 study by Old Dominion University professors Jesse Richman and David Earnest, using data developed by the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, showed that more than 14 percent of self-identified non-citizens in 2008 and 2010 indicated that they were registered to vote, approximately 6.4% of surveyed non-citizens voted in 2008, and 2.2% of surveyed non-citizens voted in 2010.
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.”
Although championed primarily by Republicans, support for voter ID laws cut across party lines. A 2012 Fox News poll showed 70% of voters supported requiring an ID to vote, while 26% were opposed. Voter ID laws were supported by 52% of Democrats, 72% of independents, and 87% of Republicans. In 2011, the Rhode Island legislature passed a voter ID law, which was signed by governor Lincoln Chafee, making Rhode Island the first Democratically-controlled state to pass such legislation.
In 2011, the civil rights group The Advancement Project reported that voter ID laws disproportionately impact African-Americans and Latinos. According to another report, commissioned by the Election Assistance Commission, one effect of voter identification laws could be 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 concerns about this "are probably overstated".
A recent unpublished study from the University of California San Diego concludes that the turnout gap between white and minority voters is larger in states with strict photo ID laws. However, the study does not account for changes in the turnout gap over time, meaning the gap may have existed before the implementation of voter ID laws.
A 2011 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. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, disputed the methodology of the study, citing a question in which 14 percent of respondents said they had both a U.S. birth certificate and naturalization papers.
A study by the Congressional Research Service concluded that, in the absence of systematic risk analyses, it is difficult to determine what points in the election process — voter registration, voting systems, polling place location and hours, pollworker training, voter identification, vote tabulation, or other steps — actually involve the greatest potential risks to election integrity and therefore what priorities would be most effective for reducing those risks.
One study found that local coverage of voter fraud during the 2012 elections was greatest in presidential swing states and states that passed restrictive voting laws prior to the 2012 election. There was no evidence that the attention was related to the actual rate of voter fraud in each state though. The authors consequently concluded that this indicates "that parties and campaigns sought to place voter fraud on the political agenda in strategically important states to motivate their voting base ahead of the election".
Laws by State
|State||Original Date Enacted||Type of Law||Key Dates and Notes|
|Alabama||2003||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. The state of Alabama issues free voter ID cards to voters who need them.|
|Alaska||Photo ID||A bill to implement Photo ID law drafted by Rep. Bob Lynn was read the first time and referred to the State Affairs and Judiciary Committees on January 7, 2013.|
|Arizona||2004||Non Photo ID||Non-photographic forms of ID are accepted at polling places as of 2013|
|Arkansas||2013||Photo ID||Photo ID bill passed by lawmakers in 2013, and survived a veto by the Governor. On May 2, 2014, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox ruled the Photo ID bill unconstitutional, but stayed his ruling pending an appeal.|
|California||In most cases, California voters are not required to show identification before they cast ballots.|
|Colorado||2003||Non-Strict, Non-Photo ID||Non-photographic forms of ID allowed at polling places as of 2013.|
|Connecticut||Non Photo ID||Non-photographic forms of ID allowed at polling places.|
|Delaware||Non Photo ID||Non-photographic forms of ID allowed at polling places as of 2013.|
|Florida||1977||Photo ID||Photo ID required when voting in person.|
|Georgia||1977||Strict 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||2010||Non-Strict Photo ID||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||Strict Photo ID||Photo ID required when voting in person, enacted in 2008 after Supreme Court clearance.|
|Iowa||Photo ID||Iowa Senate did not pass a Photo ID bill.|
|Kansas||2011||Strict 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||Non Photo ID||Voters may use non-photographic identification at the polling place.|
|Maine||Photo ID||No ID needed at polling place if registered to vote at least one day prior to election.|
|Maryland||2013||Photo ID||Republicans sponsored a House Bill requiring Photo ID in 2013.|
|Massachusetts||Non Photo ID||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 Photo ID||Non-photographic ID is accepted at polling stations.|
|Mississippi||2011||Strict 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||2002||Non-Strict, Non-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||2003||Non-Strict, Non-Photo ID||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||2015||Photo ID||Voters may sign an affidavit and have their photograph taken in lieu of showing a photo ID. (Voters who object to having their photo taken for religious reasons may sign an additional religious affidavit in lieu of the photograph.)|
|New Jersey||Non Photo ID||Non-photographic forms of ID are accepted at the polls.|
|New Mexico||2008||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 Photo ID||Non-photographic ID accepted at polling stations|
|North Carolina||2013||Strict Photo ID (2016)||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||2003||Strict Non-Photo ID||ND Senate passes bill that would require Photo identification OR a person with Photo ID to vouch for a voter without ID. 2003 law amended in 2013, and moved to a strict non-photo requirement.|
|Oklahoma||2009||Non-Strict, Non-Photo ID||Oklahoma voters approved a voter Photo ID proposal placed on the ballot by the Legislature in 2010. The only non-photo form of ID accepted at the polls is the voter's registration card.|
|Ohio||2006||Strict Non-Photo ID||Non-photographic forms of ID are accepted at polling stations. 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, and ballots are mailed in. Non-photographic forms of ID are accepted for voting registration. Information required on voting ballots, such as the last 4 digits of ones Social Security Number or Drivers License Number, could not be referenced.|
|Pennsylvania||Photo ID||Law struck down by Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard L. McGinley on January 17, 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||Non-Strict Photo ID||RI requires Photo ID at the polls in 2014.|
|South Carolina||1988||Non-Strict Photo ID||Law tightened in 2011. U.S. Justice Department rejected South Carolina's law as placing an undue burden disproportionately on minority voters. On October 10, 2012, the U.S. District Court upheld South Carolina's Voter ID law, though the law won't take effect till 2013. As of January 2106, a photo ID is requested, but a voter registration card will be accepted if there is a "reasonable impediment" in possessing a photo ID.|
|South Dakota||2003||Non-Strict Photo ID||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||Strict Photo ID||Law tightened in 2011. Tennessee voters were required to show Photo ID during the 2012 elections.|
|Texas||1990||Photo ID||Law tightened in 2011. U.S. Justice Department rejected the Texas law as placing an undue burden disproportionately on minority voters. The 2013 Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder struck down the Justice Department's ability to reject the Texas law. On October 9, 2014, a U.S. District Judge struck down the law. On October 14, 2014, a panel for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a preliminary injunction against the ruling of the District Court, which was confirmed 6-3 by the U.S. Supreme Court on October 18. Therefore, the state will implement this law for the 2014 elections. On August 5, 2015, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals found the law to violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and sent it back to the U.S. District Court.|
|Utah||2009||Non-Strict, Non-Photo ID||Non-photographic forms of ID are accepted at polling stations.|
|Vermont||No ID required to vote at polling stations.|
|Virginia||1996||Strict Photo ID||Lawmakers pass Voter ID bill in 2010, and the then Governor implements it in a way that allows non-photo ID. After the 2012 election, the Virginia legislature passed a new law stipulating that non-photo ID's cannot be used. The then Governor signs the Photo ID requirement into law in 2013. The law would have needed to pass "pre-clearance" by the U.S. Department of Justice under the 1965 Voting Rights Act (certain states and jurisdictions, mostly in Southern states were required to wait for pre-clearance before changing voting laws). U.S. Supreme Court Voting Rights Act ruling on June 26 removed section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, clearing the way for Virginia to enact the new Photo ID requirement in 2014.|
|Washington||2005||Non-Strict, Non-Photo ID||Washington has no polling stations. Ballots are mailed in.|
|West Virginia||Photo ID||Republicans are preparing a Photo ID bill in 2013.|
|Wisconsin||2011||Photo ID||Following two 2012 rulings by Dane County circuit judges that blocked implementation of the 2011 Wisconsin Act 23 law requiring Voter Id, on July 31, 2014, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the law. On September 12, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the law to be put into effect just 54 days before the 2014 elections, overturning a previous ruling in federal court. On October 9, 2014, the state was again barred from implementing the Voter Id law for 2014 by the U.S. Supreme Court. On March 23, 2015, the United States Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the ACLU against Wisconsin's voter ID law, effectively upholding the 7th Circuit's ruling that it is constitutional.|
|Wyoming||No ID needed at polling stations.|
|Washington, D.C.||No ID needed at polling stations.|
- Electoral fraud
- Jim Crow laws
- Transgender disenfranchisement in the United States#Voter ID history
- Twenty-fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution
- Voter ID laws
- Voter impersonation
- Voter registration
- Voter suppression in the United States#Photo ID laws
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