All states require some form of identification in order to vote. The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires that states mandate identification for the first-time voter who registered by mail, if the registration did not require ID. Also, any voter who has not previously voted in a federal election must also provide ID. At issue is the type of identification, if any, voters are required to show before they are allowed to vote.
Usually, when a voter enters a polling place he or she signs a poll book and receives a ballot. Whether or not the voter has to show any documentary proof of identification at the same time varies from state to state. In states that do require voters to show ID, the requirements vary substantially, from a variety of acceptable non-photo ID options (like a utility bill, bank statement, or paycheck) to very strict rules that require voters to show one of a few specific types of photo identification, such as a current in-state driver’s license or passport.
Recently, strict photo ID proposals have been considered in an unprecedented number of state legislatures and new photo ID requirements were adopted in eight states in 2011. Proponents of strict photo ID rules argue that they are needed to protect the integrity of elections and prevent voter fraud. But these arguments do a disservice to the American people by confusing unrelated issues; voter impersonation fraud is virtually nonexistent, and the examples of fraud that proponents can point to are not situations that could be prevented by photo ID requirements. Instead, strict ID rules create new obstacles for the millions of Americans who do not have acceptable ID; obstacles that fall hardest on elderly, low-income, and minority voters.
For more information, see FELN’s Voting Rights Center.
FELN Reports, Guides and Other Resources
- FELN Photo ID Talking Points
- FELN Voter Suppression Chart: Legislation in 2011-2012 - Update April 11, 2012
- Senate Hearing Spotlights Voting Law Changes
- Have you Checked Your Right to Vote Lately?
- Fair Elections Legal Network Applauds Department of Justice Decision to Halt South Carolina Photo ID Laws