Voter ID laws

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The Voter ID laws are laws that require either a non-photo or photo identification to receive a ballot for an election.



Federal elections

In Canada to vote, one must prove their identity and address. A voter has three options[1]:

(1) Show one original piece of identification with photo, name and address like a driver's license or an health card. It must be issued by a government agency.

(2) Show two original pieces of authorized identification. Both pieces must have a name and one must also have an address. Examples: student ID card, birth certificate, public transportation card, utility bill, bank/credit card statement, etc.

(3) Take an oath and have an elector who knows the voter vouch for them (both of which will be required to make a sworn statement). This person must have authorized identification and their name must appear on the list of electors in the same polling division as the voter. This person can only vouch for one person and the person who is vouched for cannot vouch for another elector.

Provincial elections

However in some provinces like in Quebec, one has to establish their identity by presenting a health insurance card, a driver’s license, a Canadian passport, a certificate of Indian status or a Canadian Forces ID.[2] These are all photos IDs.


Germany has a community-based resident registration system and everyone eligible to vote receives a personal polling notification some weeks before the election by mail, indicating the polling station of the voter's precinct. Voters have to present their polling notification or a piece of photo ID (identity card, passport) when voting. The election officials may refrain from demanding identification when the voter is personally known to them, given his or her name is in the polling station's register of voters.

The Netherlands

The registration office of each municipality in the Netherlands maintains a registration of all residents. Every eligible voter receives a personal polling notification by mail some weeks before the election, indicating the polling station of the voter's precinct. Voters have to present their polling notification and a piece of photo ID (passport, identity card, or drivers license) when voting. Such photo ID must not expired for more than 5 years.[3]

United States

Map of the United States showing voter ID laws by state
  States that require photo ID
  States that request photo ID
  States that require non-photo ID
  States with no voter ID law

Because of laws against any form of poll tax in the United States, voting rights must be extended freely and without monetary cost to every legally eligible voter. Several state governments pay for and distribute free voter IDs to help them comply.[4] However, there are sometimes other costs associated with obtaining copies of the required documentation in order to obtain these voter IDs.

The 2002 federal Help America Vote Act requires any voter who registered by mail and who has not previously voted in a federal election to show current and valid photo identification or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter. Voters who submitted any of these forms of identification during registration are exempt, as are voters entitled to vote by absentee ballot under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.

Through 2010

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.[5] His administration had spent and mailed $275,000 worth of free voter ID cards to residents in Arlington and Fairfax counties.[6][7][8] 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.[9]

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.[10][11]

Indiana passed a law in 2005 requiring a photo ID be shown by all voters before casting ballots.[12] 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.[13][14]

From 2011 onward

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.[15] 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 gunowners, who trend conservative. [16] Rhode Island passed a voter ID law in 2011, the only state with a Democratic-controlled legislature to do so.[17] 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;[18] however, the ID requirement was blocked by the Justice Department.[19] 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.[20][21] 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.[22] Pennsylvania's voter ID law allows 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). [23]

State-by-state requirements as of August 2012

The statutes, as of August 2012, of the 50 U.S. states regarding the required or requested showing of ID at the polling place are as follows:[24]

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, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. In addition, Mississippi 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.

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 has a voter ID): Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan and South Dakota. New Hampshire also has one of these laws, but it requires pre-approval from the U.S. Justice Department first.

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, Texas, Utah, Virginia, 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".[25] The report was based on research conducted by Job Serebov, Republican elections lawyer, and Tova Wang, voting expert from the Century Foundation.[25]

The final version released to the public, however, stated that there was "a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud."[25] Democrats charged that the commission, with a Republican majority, had altered the conclusion for political reasons, which the commission denied.[25] 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.[26]

The Democratic Party fought the voter identification laws, calling them the GOP war on Voting and a return of Jim Crow disenfranchisement. Civil rights groups were vocal about the laws, saying they disproportionately hurt blacks and Latinos.[27] According to another report commissioned by the Election Assistance Commission, one effect of voter identification laws is lower turnout, especially among members of minorities.[25]

On June 23, 2012, Pennsylvania's Speaker of the House, Republican Mike Turzai stated that Pennsylvania's recent voter identification law would "allow Governor [Mitt] Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania"[28] in the 2012 U.S. Presidential election.[29][30]


A commonly cited 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.[31] 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.[32]

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative thinktank, 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.[33] 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.[34] 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,[35] though this frame still assumes that voters should have to take the extra step of getting an ID and bringing it to their polling place in order to vote. 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.[36]

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.”[37] 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.[38]


Influential advocates

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Elections 2012 (in Dutch)". Retrieved September 16, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Voter identification: First, show your face". The Economist. September 17, 2011. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  5. ^,593240&dq=voter+id&hl=en
  6. ^ "Va. High Court Panel Bars Voter ID Plan". The Washington Post. October 23, 1999. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  7. ^ "VOTERS IN 10 LOCALITIES TO RECEIVE ID CARDS". October 2, 1999. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  8. ^ Burns, Jim (July 7, 2008). "Virginia Democrats File Lawsuit to Block Voter ID Program". Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  9. ^ Daphne Eviatar (October 1, 2008). "Florida 2000 Redux?". The Washington Independent. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  10. ^ Urbina, Ian (May 12, 2008). "Voter ID Battle Shifts to Proof of Citizenship – New York Times". The New York Times (Missouri;Florida;Kansas;Oklahoma;South Carolina;Arizona;Indiana). Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  11. ^ "More states may copy Arizona’s proof-of-citizenship voter requirement – Tucson Citizen Morgue (1992–2009)". January 16, 2008. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  12. ^ Barnes, Robert (April 29, 2008). "High Court Upholds Indiana Law On Voter ID". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Supreme Court Hears Indiana Voter ID Case". NPR. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  14. ^ Biskupic, Joan (January 6, 2008). "Voter ID case could affect election laws". USA Today. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  15. ^ "After Six-Year Fight, Perry Signs Voter ID into Law". May 27, 2011. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Voter identification: First, show your face". The Economist. September 17, 2011. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  17. ^ "Rhode Island, Providence, news, sports, entertainment, ads | | The Providence Journal". August 23, 2011. Retrieved November 12, 2011. [dead link]
  18. ^ Smith, Gina. "Free rides to DMV offered for photo IDs – Local / Metro". Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  19. ^ a b HuffPost, 23 December 2011: South Carolina Voter ID Law: Justice Department Blocks Controversial Legislation
  20. ^ "State employee fired after telling co-workers about photo ID policy". JSOnline. September 8, 2011. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  21. ^ "Mary Bottari: Wisconsin Worker Fired for Email on Free Voter IDs". Huffington Post. September 13, 2011. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ National Conference of State Legislatures: Voter Identification Requirements
  25. ^ a b c d e Urbina, Ian (April 11, 2007), "Panel Said to Alter Finding on Voter Fraud", The New York Times,, retrieved 2011-12-17 
  26. ^ Richard L. Hasen (2007-05-18). "The Fraudulent Fraud Squad: The incredible, disappearing American Center for Voting Rights.". Slate. 
  27. ^ "Wisconsin legal group asks U.S. to monitor state's voter ID law". Reuters. September 1, 2011. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  28. ^ "Voter ID Law Comment". 
  29. ^ "Turzai's voter ID remark draws criticism". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. June 26, 2012. 
  30. ^ "PA Democrats Unhappy With GOP Comments About New Voter ID Law". 
  31. ^ Jackson, Jodie (September 15, 2011). "Noren speaks on voter photo ID issues | The Columbia Daily Tribune – Columbia, Missouri". Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  32. ^ Olver, Christopher (September 28, 2011). "ID at the Polls: Assessing the Impact of Recent State Voter ID Laws on Voter Turnout – Journalist's Resource: Research for Reporting, from Harvard Shorenstein Center". Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  33. ^ "Not a Race Card". Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  34. ^
  35. ^ Lohman, Walter. "Case Against Voter Identification Is Not Persuasive". Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  36. ^ Kobach, Kris W. (May 23, 2011). "Kris W. Kobach: The Case for Voter ID". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  37. ^ Roff, Peter (June 10, 2011). "Poll: Democrats and Republicans Support a Voter ID-Check Law". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved May 16, 2012. 
  38. ^ Blanton, Dana (April 18, 2012). "Fox News Poll: Most think voter ID laws are necessary". Fox News. Retrieved May 16, 2012. 
  39. ^,1589561&dq=voter+id+laws+2003&hl=en
  40. ^ "Voter ID Implementation". Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  41. ^ Jennie Bowser. "2003 State Election Reform". Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  42. ^ Jennie Bowser, Bev DePriest. "Voter ID: State Requirements". Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^ "Texas Takes Aim At Blocked Voter ID Law". Fox News. March 15, 2012. 

See also