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Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Voter ID Laws

More than 30 states have enacted some version of voter ID law in recent years. How much do these laws change voting rules and what impact could they have on the general election?

A local resident casts her vote at a polling station in Sandy Springs, Ga., on March 6, 2012. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

This post is being kept up-to-date. It was first published on July 23.

Voter IDs laws have become a political flashpoint in what's gearing up to be another close election year. Supporters say the laws — which 30 states have now enacted in some form — are needed to combat voter fraud, while critics see them as a tactic to disenfranchise voters.

We've taken a step back to look at the facts behind the laws and break down the issues at the heart of the debate.

So what are these laws?

They are measures intended to ensure that a registered voter is who he says he is and not an impersonator trying to cast a ballot in someone else's name. The laws, most of which have been passed in the last several years, require that registered voters show ID before they're allowed to vote. Exactly what they need to show varies. Some states require a government-issued photo, while in others a current utility bill or bank statement is sufficient.

As a registered voter, I thought I always had to supply some form of ID during an election.

Not quite. Per federal law, first-time voters who registered by mail must present a photo ID or copy of a current bill or bank statement. Some states generally advise voters bring some form of photo ID. But prior to the 2006 election, no state ever required a voter to produce a government-issued photo ID as a condition to voting. Indiana in 2006 became the first state to enact a strict photo ID law, a law that was upheld two years later by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Why are these voter ID laws so strongly opposed?

Voting law opponents contend these laws disproportionately affect elderly, minority and low-income groups that tend to vote Democratic. Obtaining photo ID can be costly and burdensome, with even free state ID requiring documents like a birth certificate that can cost up to $25 in some places. According to a study from NYU's Brennan Center, 11 percent of voting-age citizens lack necessary photo ID while many people in rural areas have trouble accessing ID offices. During closing arguments in a recent case over Texas's voter ID law, a lawyer for the state brushed aside these obstacles as the "reality to life of choosing to live in that part of Texas."

Attorney General Eric Holder and others have compared the laws to a poll tax, in which Southern states during the Jim Crow era imposed voting fees, which discouraged blacks, and even some poor whites -- until the passage of grandfather clauses -- from voting.

Given the sometimes costly steps required to obtain needed documents today, legal scholars argue that photo ID laws create a new "financial barrier to the ballot box."

Just how well-founded are fears of voter fraud?

There have been only a small number of fraud cases resulting in a conviction. A New York Times analysis from 2007 identified 120 cases filed by the Justice Department over five years. These cases, many of which stemmed from mistakenly filled registration forms or misunderstanding over voter eligibility, resulted in 86 convictions.

There are "very few documented cases," said UC-Irvine professor and election law specialist Rick Hasen. "When you do see election fraud, it invariably involves election officials taking steps to change election results or it involves absentee ballots which voter ID laws can't prevent," he said.

An analysis by News21, a national investigative reporting project, identified 10 voter impersonation cases out of 2,068 alleged election fraud cases since 2000 – or one out of every 15 million prospective voters.

One of the most vocal supporters of strict voter ID laws, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, told the Houston Chronicle earlier this month that his office has prosecuted about 50 cases of voter fraud in recent years. "I know for a fact that voter fraud is real, that it must be stopped, and that voter id is one way to prevent cheating at the ballot box and ensure integrity in the electoral system," he told the paper. Abbott's office did not immediately respond to ProPublica's request for comment.

How many voters might be turned away or dissuaded by the laws, and could they really affect the election?

It's not clear.

According to the Brennan Center, about 11 percent of U.S. citizens, or roughly 21 million citizens, don't have government-issued photo ID. This figure doesn't represent all voters likely to vote, just those eligible to vote.

In late September, an analysis by Reuters and research firm Ipsos of data culled from 20,000 voter interviews found that those lacking proper ID were less likely to vote anyway, “regardless of state law changes.”

Among those who said they were “certain to vote,” only 1 percent said they did not have proper ID while another 1 percent said they were uncertain whether they had the proper ID.

The analysis also found that those who lack valid photo ID tended to be young people, those without college educations, Hispanics and the poor.

State figures also can be hard to nail down. In Pennsylvania, nearly 760,000 registered voters, or 9.2 percent of the state's 8.2 million voter base, don't own state-issued ID cards, according to an analysis of state records by the Philadelphia Inquirer. State officials, on the other hand, place this number at between 80,000 and 90,000.

In Indiana and Georgia, states with the earliest versions of photo ID laws, about 1,300 provisional votes were discarded in the 2008 general election, later analysis has revealed.

As for the potential effect on the election, one analysis by Nate Silver at the New York Times' FiveThirtyEight blog estimates they could decrease voter turnout anywhere between 0.8 and 2.4 percent. It doesn't sound like a very wide margin, but it all depends on the electoral landscape.

"We don't know exactly how much these news laws will affect turnout or skew turnout in favor of Republicans," said Hasen, author of the recently released The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown. "But there's no question that in a very close election, they could be enough to make a difference in the outcome."

When did voter ID laws get passed — and which states have the strictest ones?

The first such law was passed as early as 2003, but momentum has picked up in recent years. In 2011 alone, legislators in 34 states introduced bills requiring voters show photo ID — 14 of those states already had existing voter ID laws but lawmakers sought to toughen statutes, mainly to require proof of photo identification.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has a helpful breakdown of states' voter ID laws and how they vary.

(National Conference of State Legislatures)

Indiana, Georgia, Tennessee, Kansas and Pennsylvania have the toughest versions. These states won't allow voters to cast a regular ballot without first showing valid photo ID. Other states with photo ID laws offer some more flexibility by providing voters with several alternatives.

What happens if a voter can't show valid photo ID in these states?

These voters are entitled to a provisional ballot. To ensure their votes count, however, they must produce the mandatory ID within a certain time frame and affirm in person or writing they are the same individual who filled out a temporary ballot on Election Day. The time limits vary: They range anywhere from up to three days after the election (Georgia) to noon the Monday after the election (Indiana).

Ohio is now embroiled in a last-minute legal scuffle over provisional ballot procedures. Since 2006, if Ohio voters don't show some kind of ID at the polls, they fill out a provisional ballot and have 10 days to bring ID, in person, to the board of elections. The law states that an election official fills out the provisional ballot affirmation indicating what kind of ID, if any, a voter shows. On Friday, Nov. 2, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted issued a directive to election boards saying voters themselves — and not election officials — must record the ID information.

Voting rights advocates have asked a federal district judge for a clarification on the procedure. The judge says he'll issue one before the 10-day period after the election elapses. Husted's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Are there any exceptions to the photo ID requirement?

Yes. Indigency or religious objections to being photographed. But these exceptions don't automatically grant a voter the ability to cast a regular ballot: In Pennsylvania and Indiana, voters will be given a provisional ballot and must sign an affidavit for their exemption within the given time frame. For a more specific breakdown of all exceptions, see this state-by-state summary.

Why is the Justice Department getting involved in some cases?

Because of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires that states with a history of discrimination receive preclearance before making changes to voting laws. Texas and South Carolina passed strict photo ID laws in 2011 but were refused preclearance by the DOJ, which argued that these laws could suppress turnout among minority voters. Texas went to court seeking judicial preclearance from a federal district court; in August, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia blocked the law. South Carolina has presented arguments before the same court.

South Carolina also requested judicial preclearance. On Oct. 10, a separate three-judge panel cleared the law, stating that it satisfies Section 5 due largely to its "reasonable impediment provision," which permits voters with registration cards to cast a provisional ballot if they provide a reason for being unable to procure photo ID. However, the law cannot take effect until 2013, wrote Judge Brett Kavanaugh, since there's uncertainty as to whether it can be "properly implemented in time for the 2012 elections."

What about challenges to the laws?

On Aug. 15, a Pennsylvania judge shot down an attempt to attempt to block the state’s voter ID law. The plaintiffs appealed. On Sept. 18, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, by a 4-2 vote, vacated the judge’s order and returned the case for further review. The justices asked the trial judge to assess whether voters could obtain state-issued photo ID without difficulty in the short time remaining before the November general election. If the judge could not be convinced voters wouldn’t be disenfranchised, the justices wrote, the law should be temporarily blocked.

In an Oct. 2 ruling, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson did just that. He wrote that he was “not still convinced” that voters yet to obtain photo ID wouldn’t be disenfranchised as a result of the new law. He blocked it from taking effect, but only for the upcoming November 6 election. Additionally, the judge’s ruling still permits Pennsylvania election officials to request photo ID from registered voters this election, just not prevent anyone from casting a regular ballot if they’re unable to produce one.

As we’ve reported, other judges have also ruled in favor of other states’ voter ID laws. Here’s a rundown of the rulings.

The DOJ is also investigating many of the states’ laws, including Pennsylvania's photo ID law. As first reported by Talking Points Memo, the DOJ's Civil Rights Division sent the state's chief election official a letter Monday afternoon requesting 16 separate items, including the state's complete voter registration list, any documents supporting the governor's prior assurance that "99 percent" of the state's eligible voters already have acceptable photo ID, any papers to prove the state is prepared to provide registered voters with ID cards free of charge upon oath or affirmation, and any studies that inform state officials of the "demographic characteristics" of residents who lack valid voter ID.

The DOJ letter states it needs these documents within 30 days to evaluate the state's compliance with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which forbids voting practices that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.

Tennessee saw a fight over whether library cards with photos were an acceptable form ID under the state's new law. Just last week, the Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed that voters can cast regular ballots using the free library cards.

Have any states attempted to enact strict voter ID laws but so far been unsuccessful?

Yes. In Wisconsin, two judges have blocked enforcement of the state's photo ID law. The state attorney general has asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to intervene and reinstate the law before the November election. Meantime, Democratic governors in Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire and North Carolina have vetoed strict photo ID bills passed by their Republican-led legislatures last year.

In New Hampshire, however, the state legislature overrode the governor's veto. In September, the Justice Department cleared the law, required since parts of the state are covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Voters in New Hampshire who cannot produce a valid photo ID in the upcoming November election will still be permitted to vote after signing a challenged voter affidavit. But that's not all: these voters will be sent verification letters from the Secretary of State to confirm they voted. If they don't respond in writing within 90 days, the state attorney general will pursue an investigation into voter fraud.

Are there other voter ID laws in effect that ask for but don't necessarily require photo ID?

Yes. In these so-called "non-strict photo ID states" — Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Idaho, South Dakota and Hawaii — individuals are requested to show photo ID but can still vote if they don't have one. Instead, they may be asked to sign affidavits affirming their identity or provide a signature that will be compared with those in registration records.

Why has there been such a recent surge in voter ID legislation around the country?

This report by NYU's Brennan Center for Justice cites primarily big Republican gains in the 2010 midterms which turned voter ID laws into a "major legislative priority." Aside from Rhode Island, all voter ID legislation has been introduced by Republican-majority legislatures.

News21 also has this report on the close affiliation between the bills’ sponsors and the conservative nonprofit group, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Republican figures have championed such laws. For instance, Mike Turzai, majority leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, recently praised the state's legislative accomplishments at a Republican State Committee meeting last month. "Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done," he said.

A spokesman for Turzai, Steve Miskin, told ProPublica that Turzai was "mischaracterized" by the press. "For the first time in many years, you're going to have a relatively level playing field in the presidential elections" as the result of these new laws," Miskin said. "With all things equal, a Republican presidential nominee in Pennsylvania has a chance."

Correction August 20, 2012: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated “voting law advocates contend these laws disproportionately affect elderly, minority and low-income groups that tend to vote Democratic.” It’s voting law opponents who make that contention.

Correction July 24, 2012: An earlier version of this story said Texas went to federal court to challenge the DOJ’s denial of preclearance. In fact, Texas filed a lawsuit seeking preclearance from the federal district court two months before the DOJ announced its decision. Also, some states require a government-issued photo that does not have to come from the federal government as first detailed.

Clarification Sept. 25, 2012: This post has been clarified to reflect details about who was discouraged from voting under a poll tax.

Correction Oct. 4, 2012: An earlier version of this story stated that New Hampshire was unsuccessful in enacting a voter ID law. In fact, its legislature overrode the governor’s veto and the law is now in place in the state.

It’s astonishing that the GOP has so blatantly enacted voter suppression laws (which is all these things are). It harkens back to the bad old days, of course, but it is also a reminder that racism isn’t dead im this country. It has been latent - until we finally elected a non-white President. Now, once more, it’s reared its ugly head.

I don’t get it. What the hell’s the big deal? I’ll bet if we were required to have a photo ID to buy gasoline, or something else trivial, we’d damn sure go get one. There are some precincts where even dead people are allowed to vote, so it seems a photo ID is a fair assurance that a ballot is valid.. (Funny that the precincts are predominantly Democrat; hmm….). Requiring a photo ID is not racist, any more than requiring a driver’s license. I wish people would quit raising that straw man.

arnold Josnick

July 23, 2012, 5:14 p.m.

The photo ID is so repulsive that the NAACP required it to gain access to their meetings.  You need it to buy cigarettes,alcohol, collect gambling winnings, cash a check, get a EBT card, and the list goes on and on. 

I fail to see how obtaining a FREE photo ID is such a great hardship.

Gee Joe (the Plumber?). Provide us with proof that dead people were allowed to vote. NOT, mind you, that dead people were on the rolls because the rolls are not updated very often. But that one zombie actually VOTED.

And, as for you, Arnold, I know several people for whom $25.00 is a large expense not to mention the difficulty they have getting around without a car. There are no buses around here, Arnie.

But, meanwhile, Turzai spoke the truth. If I had my choice between some zombie voting Republican and a Republican being disenfranchised, I’d allow the zombie to vote. But, then, I’m an American liberal.

Remember we are dealing with legal-istas who say the documented cases, i.e. those recognized and charged or maybe even convicted are few—which is likely true.  As if the authorities prosecute all the traffic speeders out there.  Remember a few years ago, an organization sent registered letters to a large quantity of Ohio voters based on the registrations?  then remember how a huge number of letters came back with ‘no such address’, ‘no one by that name here’, vacant lots etc etc etc?  The organization was vilified for its action but no one vilified the all those incorrectly or fraudulently registered?  They aren’t counted by the legal-istas.  I suggest all the ‘rights’ orgs stop giving news conferences and start helping those without IDs to get them!  Then everyone can stand tall on election day knowing their vote counts.

It is my understanding that everyone in high school has an ID card with a photo. So even if someone does not drive they would have that as an ID, if in the service you get a photo id, driver licenses have a photo id and you can get a photo id card from the dmv if you do not drive. now most credit cards have a photo id, so it seems hard for me to see why everyone does not have a photo ID that is 18 and over. In Calif. after my mother died, I checked and it was 5 yrs before they removed her name and I wrote letters and called every year. They just have us sign our name and print our address and that is written where we are signing and printing so I guess we won’t have to remember it. Without having photo ID’s anyone can vote and say they are anyone and who would know unless someone decided to vote who had not voted in years and their name was already signed. . WE need photo ID’s

Material does not cover potential abuses in several states now using mail ballots sent to registered voters.

So what is potential for mail ballot fraud. Simply one ballot being used improperly?

I live outside philadephia and i watched the news on election day..they were interviewing people who said they were homeless and had voted 2,3 and 4 times in 4-5 different districts… there were also reported cases of nursing staff taking mentally challenged people to the polls in vans and voting for them.. if you dont know the difference between soda and a kitchen cabinet you damn sure cant choose who you want to be president..  Also all these groups who oppose these laws require ID to get into their buildings and functions!!!!! Hypocrites

The question is simple.  Is it better to allow a few dozen illegal votes (and not show ID), or force voters to show ID and disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters? 

Which is the more illegitimate election?

cjr gets it.

What a depressing worldview voter ID proponents must have. Imagine going through life thinking the worst of people, worrying so much over 86 cases of voter fraud that potentially disenfranchising millions of perfectly legal citizens sounds like a better plan.

Plz, forgive my french, but this writer is fulla crap. Must have been bored with nothing else to write about. Or they really ARE a Republican fishing for more knowledge to pervert…legally.
I could write a whole article about this issue and the writers of it far as that goes, but I’ll only give two points here.
Perhaps the republicans ain’t as nasty and have dictator laws here, but even our POOREST people who desperately need food to eat HAVE to have an ID. Human services used to get that sort of ID for them, but have no idea if they even do that anymore. You don’t have an ID, you STARVE.
Number two: There is the BIGGEST part of the year to go for an ID and there is a LOT of things you can’t do or have around here without an ID. That includes going to a nightclub, and it don’t make a dam if you look 108 friggin years OLD-ID at the DOOR! Or you don’t get in.
That includes jobs, bank accounts, library cards, driver’s licenses and buying a bottle of liquor.
Even poor ragged drifters come thru here and if they are living by the river and need food and no money and go to the local Salvation Army to pick up a couple of bags of food-ID! Gotta have or you won’t get but one time.
Now, WHO do you think you’re foolin’ today?

Give me a break, disenfranchising hundreds of thousands? I don’t believe it.Third world countries require more voter documentation than we do, and most have a much higher percentage of votes cast.

Voting is a civic duty, but it’s all too easily avoided when it conflicts with trivial tasks. Additionally, voters should be expected to educate themselves about the candidates and issues, a chore few are willing to undertake. Voting is a privilege, but it comes with responsibilities. One of those should be to prove our eligibility to exercise it.

New generation’s Electronic voting system done through small private devices such as cell phones, facebook type accounts will surely help eliminate these problems in the times ahead!3
the cost will be losing so called “Privacy” which is actually only a foolish notion of ordinary citizens.
What is truly beneficial is wise voters cast votes for electing wise leaders. Votes of Belief-blind ones are worthless.

Richard Winger

July 23, 2012, 8:15 p.m.

Election officials already have the signature of every registered voter on file.  Signatures on the sign-in sheet at the polls can be compared with the signature on file in the voter registration records.  So voting is different from other commercial transactions.

And it is not true that a photo ID is an absolute requirement to fly on a commercial flight.  Anyone who shows up with a photo ID, but who explains why, can then have TSA personnel access his or her credit record and then TSA asks questions that only that individual would know the answer to.

Anyone can lose his or her wallet, just before voting.  I doubt any U.S. adult over the age of 25 can say he or she has never lost a wallet.

Commenters who sneer at those who question the legitimacy of voter ID laws simply overlook the truth: there are elderly people who can’t get to the places that issue IDs; there are people who can’t access their birth certificates because the documents no longer exist; there are people who don’t have drivers licenses because they can’t afford a car.

Please read this piece, which provides two specific cases where, though no fault of their own, eligible voters cannot get valid voter IDs:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/us/politics/tougher-voter-id-laws-set-off-court-battles.html?ref=politics

This piece describes how the Wisconsin voter ID requirements will compel an 84-year-old woman who has been voting for 63 years to pay a fee for a birth certificate and an additional fee to correct a misspelling on her birth record. Although the story may exaggerate when it says the woman could end up paying $200, the point is this: why should she have to pay anything at all?

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2011/12/05/381885/wisconsin-voter-id-law-may-force-84-year-old-woman-to-pay-200-to-get-a-voter-id/

Simply saying, as so many of you have, that ID cards are a fact of life does not make it so. It may be true for you and everyone you know, but studies and specific cases show that some people who have every right to vote will be disenfranchised by these voter ID laws, and for some people, they impose an unfair financial burden.

freeandequalpa

July 23, 2012, 9:20 p.m.

“In Pennsylvania, nearly 760,000 registered voters, or 9.2 percent of the state’s 8.2 million voter base, don’t own state-issued ID cards, according to an analysis of state records by the Philadelphia Inquirer. State officials, on the other hand, place this number at between 80,000 and 90,000.”

Actually, the 760,000 figure is the number from the PA Department of State’s own analysis (https://docs.google.com/open?id=0Bz-1YRHzEOsqME5yeVd2X3RKMUU).  The Governor and Secretary of State originally guessed that the number would be in the 80,000 to 90,000 range, but when they actually did the study, they discovered the number was much higher.  An expert analysis performed for the voters challenging the law indicates that the number is even higher—more than 1 million voters (http://freeandequalpa.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/petitioners-expert-reports/).

Notably, in the lawsuit challenging the PA photo ID law, the Commonwealth has admitted in writing that there is no evidence of in-person voter impersonation fraud, which is the only kind of fraud that a law requiring voters to show ID at the polls possibly could prevent (http://pilcop.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Exhibit-3-Applewhite-Stipulation-copy.pdf). 

If you are interested, you can read reports and commentary on the PA lawsuit here: http://freeandequalpa.wordpress.com/

I think the fact that under the Texas law, you can show a gun license and cast a vote but be turned away with a student ID, is all the proof necessary to show that these are politically-motivated measures to suppress one kind of citizen and encourage other kinds.

Caraline Levy

July 24, 2012, 4:08 a.m.

Follow the money from ALEC, a corporate front group that claims to be bipartisan.  They give money and write laws that benefit corporations and in return, the legislators push the laws through.
http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2012/07/05/who-is-alec/
We need.someone like the late Granny D to push for campaign finance reform. It’s immoral for any public servant to take money from anyone let alone.promise favorable legislation with the money. There is a word for that. Bribery.

Astounding, some one is full of it and me thinks the author; is….

Liberals are crazy about Europe and what they think is Utopia.
I have news for all. The European Union Requires that all citizens will carry ID on them at all times.
Now why is this so hard for US citizens to do?
Is it any harder for a Democrat to get and ID than a Republican?
With 20 some millionIlegals it may be very necessary soon to prove who you are…

Senior citizens who receive Social Security Checks must do so by direct deposit to a financial instution, How did they get an account or even the check. It is time just get one and quit the crying, dead men do not count any more nor will illegals…......

My late mother never drove a car, hence, no license; never had a credit card or checking account; never traveled abroad, hence, no passport; but resided at the same address for 43 years and voted in every election until her death.  It’s doubtful she would have been able to do so in some states today.  When I took up residence in my home 22 years ago, I signed a form the signature on which is compared with one I must provide at each election to obtain a ballot.  Unfortunately, I have since been aflicted with essential tremor which renders my current signature very different from that provided two decades ago.  Would some require I bring a medical certificate to substantiate the condition?  My driver’s license issued four years ago pictures me clean shaven.  I have since grown a beard.  Must I shave or get a new license at a cost of $150 to vote?  Those so quick to embrace the obsticles being raised to the exercise of our most precious right as citizens should consider we are not all identical peas in the same pod.

I have talked to several people who are being cut out by the PA law.  One had only his birth record, which his parents never filed to turn it into a birth certificate, and being disabled, it’s non-trivial for him to navigate the process of filing it, waiting, and then coming back to try (again) to get an ID.  Another has a mother who was born in a sharecropper shack in the south, and her birth certificate was that the family carved her name into a tree outside the door.  Another young woman had to spend $95 for a birth certificate, because she was born in an army hospital in a base that is now closed, and some minor details were mis-spelled, meaning that a database search would not pull it up, so she had to pay for a hand search of all of the records from several closed bases. Many students in our state do not understand why some college ID’s will work (because they have expiration dates printed on them, or officially added) while others will not (no expiration dates, or unofficially added).  Ditto people with nursing home ID’s (who ever heard of a nursing home ID with an expiration date?  That’s macabre.) They will be surprised when they get to the polls.

Please note that in all cases, these are not the “freeloaders” that some folks like to complain about—these are people who worked hard, paid their own way, and never found a need to have state-government issued photo ID before. They have social security cards, they go to school, to work, pay taxes, and there is ZERO suspicion that they are anything other than US citizens (their family trees go back generations in the US). But getting an ID for voting is somewhere between an expensive burden and a near-impossibility. True, for 93-96% of society, showing an ID is no problem.  But elections are commonly decided by a few percentage points—and unlike everything else that we use ID’s for, voting is a right, not a privilege.

John… the European Union does not require every citizen to carry ID on them at all times. Laws concerning ID vary throughout the EU, just like it does in the US. Looking at the comments, its amazing how ignorant we are of the conditions that the poor in our country live in. So many of you live right next to them and have no idea. The US has one of the lowest voter participation rates in the democratic world. We love to fly the flag and cheer our veterans, but many of us can’t be bothered to do the one thing that our veterans were fighting for. The US also has practically no voter fraud whatsoever. It is a non-issue dressed up to hide the true motives of the people pushing it.

To the commenter who said it would take that elderly woman 200.00 for an ID, then your state has crooks in offices such as ID offices and is committing fraud and theft. You need to turn them in to Dept. of Justice and your local District Attorney.
That said, you better wake up and open your eyes to the things citizens HAVE to have an ID for to have. Just about everything here in Okla.
Is the point of this is to leave the door unlocked to let thieves come in and take EVERYTHING?
Geez, even the bible warned about that! More logic than then greed the size of the titanic, and it is going DOWN.
WHY aren’t such people being helped? Or do you really not care and cover it up with babble?

Jimmy Wingnut

July 24, 2012, 8:56 a.m.

Someone earlier posted that those who can’t differentiate between a kitchen cabinet and a can of soda should not be allowed to vote. I couldn’t agree more. If that were the rule, Obama would win by a Saddam Heussein like margin.

(Not the other one…the usual one that rambles for pages…)

First, I don’t see a problem with an ID requirement, as long as there’s no burden in getting the ID.  And by “no burden,” I mean we spring the twenty bucks (or whatever) for the homeless guy who wants to vote ON THE SPOT at the voting station.

Keep in mind that this is 2012, after all.  I can have an accurate model of the Statue of Liberty custom-printed for me in under an hour.  An ID doesn’t need to be expensive, or even something the voter takes home.

Along similar lines, a point system (like everybody else in the world uses) would also work fine.  An EBT card and a bank statement should be fine.  Add in attestations (under threat of perjury), as in, “these people (who have valid ID) say this is where I live,” and I think it can work without much burden to anybody.

However, that’s only a fraction of the problem.  Really, how many non-residents can you really sneak into a polling place and how many elections can that swing?

The remainder of the problem is that the government needs to make the counting process transparent, from bottom to top.

Here’s the thing, a million years ago, before voting was industrialized (and it’s still like this in a few small towns, here and there), each “counting” point posted its interim results where anybody could see them.

If your district has a hundred people in it, and three hundred voted, or if everybody you know votes solidly for one party and the other candidate wins, it’s clear that something’s wrong.  Likewise, the town counts need to match the districts, the county the towns, the state the counties, and the country the states.

If the government can’t provide this, then it doesn’t matter how many illegal voters there are, because it’s trivial to steal the election AFTER the vote.  And since it’s well-known that the Diebold (or whatever their name is, this week) machines are easy to hack, that possibility is kind of a big deal.

Think about your web browser when you make a purchase.  Yes, Amazon or whoever needs to make absolutely sure that you’re you, but you also need to make absolutely sure that they are who they say they are.  Authentication needs to go both ways, or it’s useless.

So:
1.  Good ID laws are good.
2.  Burdensome ID laws are bad.
3.  No voting law is relevant unless counting the votes is transparent.

With today’s technology, there are better means than photos id’s.  There should be a system based upon biometrics; either finger print matching or some other means.

Only US citizens who are alive and breathing should be allowed to vote.

Unfortunately, disenfranchisement has and will always exists, for example, non-ambulatory people and in particular, the very elderly.  Nevertheless, technology should be installed to put an equitable end to this argument once and for all.

With today’s technology, there are better means than photos id’s.  There should be a system based upon biometrics; either finger print matching or some other means.

Only US citizens who are alive and breathing should be allowed to vote. The “fact” that only a “few” cases of fraudelent voting has occurred doesn’t hold water.  There have been many close elections decided by a handful of votes.  Fear of voter fraud undermines confdence in our system.

Unfortunately, disenfranchisement has and will always exists, for example, non-ambulatory people and in particular, the very elderly.  Nevertheless, technology should be installed to put an equitable end to this argument once and for all.  (sames argument applies to voting machines)

If you’re going to report on Voter ID laws, GET THE FACTS RIGHT. You state that “But prior to the 2006 election, no state ever required a voter to produce a government-issued photo ID as a condition to voting”
You are wrong. I lived in Connecticut for a number of years until 2001. For quite a while,  had to produce a driver’s license in order to vote. There may have been other states.
I all the years that CT had a Voter ID law, I never saw a single instance of anyone showing any “voter suppression”

The New York Times study found that 86 out of 120 cases they investigated resulted in convictions. That’s 71.6% of the cases showing VOTER FRAUD.

Pull your head out of the sand, people! Voter fraud is happening, and it is REAL.

Mr. Brockman,

Under existing Connecticut law, there is no requirement for registered voters to show ID, except first-time voters who didn’t provide valid ID upon registering. Even then, a photo ID is not specifically required. Please see this link for more information: http://www.vote411.org/bystateresult.php?state=CT

Suevon Lee

The only way to prevent dead folks, illegal’s, non-existent or disguised people from voting is to require ALL voters to leave a finger print behind that will allow the authorities to put them in jail should they vote without the authority to do so. That is, as long as there is no tampering with the official records of the jurisdictions involved.

A photo ID, legal or otherwise can be faked, legitimized and authentic in every respect including a voter being fully vetted and listed on the voter roster in MORE than one jurisdiction, all without detection as long as that vote is cast year after year in most systems.

Fingerprints can be easily compared with a standardized technique that is cost effective and tolerable.

Physical disguise can easily produce multiple photo IDs that will pass any test you can create if enough yet minimal effort is invested to establish official documentation to permit their use at multiple locations.

Therefor, the current demand for photo IDs is nothing more than an open invitation to wholesale fraud and will simply delay the adapt ion of realistic measures to solve a problem that does not realistically exist in most jurisdictions.

If all States enacted similar voting requirements and all demanded a photo ID for proper and necessary recognition. Then only legally registered and qualified voters would be allowed to vote. This would eliminate most voting fraud activities. Legitimate voters would not be disenfranchised by ‘Chicago’ Style voting fraud.

Here’s the, you should pardon the expression, elephant in the room. 

There have been only a handful of cases of voter fraud in the last several years.  There is absolutely no evidence that non-citizens or people whose voting rights have been suspended aren’t sufficiently deterred by the laws in every state making casting a vote you are not legally entitled to vote a felony punishable by prison time. 

There is, in short, absolutely no evidence that we have a problem that need’s solving.  And yet here we have the Republican Party, the party that purports to just hate, hate, hate bureaucracy and “intrusive big government” and “wasteful spending” demanding that we spend tens of millions expanding the bureaucratic burden on ordinary citizens, taking down names and addresses all to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. 

Anyone who looks that that anomaly is compelled to conclude that there is another agenda.  And to determine what that agenda might be, one need only look at which part of the electorate is most likely to find these laws sufficiently burdensome to just take a pass on exercising their fundamental right to vote.   

The entire Republican argument is transparently pretextual.  And they get away with it because or media culture insists on treating Republican arguments that are self-evidently made in bad faith as being serious and avoiding asking question that might tend to expose that fact.

To Steve. You really need to get your head out of the sand. I know you would never read Fox News but you might just want to occasionally check. There is an article today titled “Drug money funds voter fraud in Kentucky”. You might also want to check pending voter fraud cases across the country. I lived in a state that required photo ID for many years. I cannot remember a single instance of complaints about “voter suppression”. How do you find voter fraud if no identification is required?

BTW, I went to pick up a small package at Walmart today. Guess what - I had to show a photo ID. There is almost nothing you can do without a photo ID.
You progressives consider yourselves the Anointed. Anyone who disagrees just can’t understand your superior intelligence and logic.
Your hero has already destroyed the economy of this country in just 4 short years

Why don’t those of you who, “know” of cases of voter fraud notify the officials so that the frauders can be prosecuted.  I have a birth certificate.  What does that prove?  I could give it to a friend of about my age and it wouldn’t prove that the certificate applied to him.  It has a footprint of a few-hours-old baby but . . . . .  With regard to my need to prove my existence in other matters, the constitution does not address any of that but it does say that if I am 18, I can vote.  It puts no other requirements on me.  I wish the current effort would be directed toward making it easier for more people to vote.  The current efforts would seem to make it more difficult for some to vote and that, by itself, should cause this effort to fail.

This is voter suppression!  We seam to have a football mentality in our politics, what ever it takes to win! Doesn’t matter whose rights we have to take away, as long as our side wins. But here is the problem, when that happen we ALL LOOSE! It is only a matter of time before we are all in that loosing side! To protect the disadvantaged right to vote, is to protect YOUR right to vote! It is JUST THAT SIMPLE!

“Football mentality” indeed, like PSU athletics, victimizing people who can’t fight back. All in the name of privatizing every government everywhere. The fraud in US elections is in the counting, not the balloting. All this noise about people voting illegally is to cover camouflage the real crime: http://www.blackboxvoting.org. We are so screwed.

Andy from Beaverton

July 26, 2012, 9:55 a.m.

There are 190 recognized countries, ONLY 4 DO NOT REQUIRE IDENTIFICATION.  Doesn’t anybody read anymore or do they just ignore facts?

The following is from
Harvard Law & Policy Review 3,2 (Summer 2009)
Is Everyone Else Doing It? Indiana’s Voter Identification Law in International Perspective
Frederic Charles Schaffer* Tova Andrea Wang**

Countries that do not require identification include Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom (with the exception of Northern Ireland). In Norway and the Netherlands, voters are required to present identification only if it is requested by a poll worker. In Switzerland, every registered voter is sent a registration card prior to an election, and if the voter brings her registration card to the polling place, no additional identification is needed.

It seems odd that conservatives who have traditionally championed individual rights and have resisted government intrusion into people’s lives now want laws requiring official documentation of its citizens if they are to be allowed to play any role in deciding how we want to govern ourselves.

If someone chooses to live as self-sufficiently as they can, they may be giving up their right to weigh in on whether such independence will be tolerated in this country.

Politics, I guess, always demands compromise.

It seems odd that conservatives who have traditionally championed individual rights and have resisted government intrusion into people’s lives now want laws requiring official documentation of its citizens if they are to be allowed to play any role in deciding how we want to govern ourselves.

If someone chooses to live as self-sufficiently as they can, they may be giving up their right to weigh in on whether such independence will be tolerated in this country. Perhaps the threat of terrorism has made required intrusion into our lives for the purposes of sorting us out from the bad guys inevitable and acceptable to people who once resisted it as a threat to individual freedom.

Politics, I guess, always demands compromise.

The effort (and money) expended in fighting photo ids for voting could have been directed at making sure all those who wanted a photo id to vote had one.  It makes me suspicious as to their true motives.

Another solution would be to have photo id creation available when these individuals show up to vote.  They show a utility bill, etc., get their picture taken, slap it on an “official” plastic card and they can vote.

Also,these individuals who have no way of getting to a place that can issue a photo id somehow have means to show up to vote.

Suevon….I live in CT also, you don’t really need a Drivers License for an ID you can use a Social Security card, a bill with name and address etc…but my mother went to vote the year this past and was told she had to show a picture ID she did not have one never drove we tried to explain to them ask to show ss card or Medicare card they gave her a hard time shows how much the people checking you in know. They were wrong.. Funny I was just reading the requirements of the Connecticut ID Law….If you need ID have your bills, SS card, Medicare Card EBT card Rent receipt etc Why make people go to extremes when some of or most of these show who you are because they check up on you to get them.

The law in CT must have changed in the past few years. When I lived there, the requirement was for a photo ID to vote. I lived there for 20 years and never heard of a concern raised about “discriminating”. The State should make it very easy and inexpensive (or no cost) to obtain a photo ID. Then there should be minimal problems.
There is a problem when a young white male (looking nothing like the AG) can go to Eric Holder’s place of voting and be given his ballot by simply asking for it.

The former president of the Florida Republican party has publicly admitted the agenda of the party is to disenfranchise voters they believe to be Democratic voters.

In the US, voting is a constitutional right. And voting is a *local* matter. There is no funding set aside from state or federal govt to pay for the cost of having an election.

Because voting is a local matter, it is paid out of local funds (which are collected via taxes). That means costs shifted from the state to the election system are an unfunded mandate on taxpayers at the local level.

Without Voter ID, people bring their existing appropriate ID (if any is needed) to vote. They are allowed to vote and their vote is counted. This is how the system has worked—successfully—for over two centuries.

With mandatory Voter ID, individuals are required to have a specific type of ID in order to vote. This interferes with the individual’s right to vote, but the states claim they will issue a “free” Voter ID card for those who need one. In an ideal world, people would simply have their “Voter ID” card and use it for their lifetime (updated as needed). Such a card would be a de facto National ID card. However, there exists no such National ID card in the US (yet).

Due to the lack of such an ID card, the unwillingness to create yet more bureaucracy and paperwork, and primarily to save money, states chose instead to *permit* the substitution of an *existing* ID card in lieu of a “real” Voter ID card. One example would be a state-issued driver’s license.

But, all that does is mean the cost of issuing Voter ID cards is reduced—not eliminated. People are still required to have one of a limited type of ID—one they might not have (non-drivers). Thus, they have to go and get the *specified* ID they did not need previously (but do need in the future—purely to vote, no other reason).

Because this Voter ID is a cost borne by the local govt and/or the state system, it is an *extra* cost added to taxes.

Voter ID is a tax increase.

And everyone thought conservatives were *against* tax increases….

Jerry - What a bizarre set of comments.  First, voting is NOT aconstitutional right. It does not appear in the constitution. Second, your comment that State and Federal governments don’t set aside money for elections - what is your point? Local voters elect local, state and federal candidates. Municipalities budget for it - what’s your point? Third the problem is the few states that require NO ID. How do dead people/illegal immigrants vote?
If you want to talk about unfunded federal mandates - Every time the President attends a fund raiser, States and local communities are on the hook for thousands of dollars for security. Get the campaign to pay for that and there will be more than enough money to pay for ANY form of Photo ID program.
BTW, is the President’s fund raising visit a hidden tax???

Denise Chartier Dorcey

July 30, 2012, 10:45 a.m.

To those who think voter ID laws are a good idea, think about this:

Last week, I took my 18-year-old son to advance vote at our county clerk’s office. It was his first time voting. As he does not have a driver’s license (prefers to walk), ...I had verified ahead of time… that any government-issued ID would work including military dependent IDs. Being the son of a Viet Nam vet, his father and my husband served for 24 years in the military, I thought my son’s newly issued military dependent ID would allow him to vote with no problem.

Not so!

The lady at the clerk’s office made the comment that the picture didn’t look like him and hesitated to continue the voter process. I asked her if there was a problem, since he provided her with a government-issued ID. She made the comment again that it didn’t look like him. I referred her to the picture, stating that though it is a high black-and-white contrast picture, it was in fact my son. I also offered to show her my own dependent ID picture and my driver’s license to compare the two. She appeared to reluctantly accept his ID as in fact his and proceed.

The question I have is, what would have happened had I not been there?

My son, being a first time voter and rather shy, may have not said anything and accepted her not believing it was a picture of him. He may have walked away without voting and very well may have not attempted to vote again because he thought he was not acceptable.

Not the this should make ANY DIFFERENCE AT ALL, but we are a family of white, Anglo-Saxons with Christian beliefs. I worry what will happen—in my county, my state my country—to other people whose “picture doesn’t look like them” according to one person?????

Barbara, I think the flaw in your logic is the assertion that there are politicians that stand for anything other than their own interests.  Despite rhetoric to the contrary, nobody gets themselves elected to government with the intent of getting themselves less authority.  It’d be like going to your boss and asking for a lower salary.

That’s the problem with a national-level voter ID law:  Once the ID is required, what else will it be required for and how will it be tracked?  Remember, it’s not too long ago when everybody you came in contact with asked for your Social Security Number to do business.

More generally, it’s worth pointing out that any law is a balance between false positives and false negatives.  In this case, that’s letting people vote illegally versus stopping legal voters.  A lack of a law allows all false positives.  Jim Crow would have many false negatives.  The question shouldn’t be “should we have to show ID,” but “what kind of law minimizes the chance of both errors?”

To Denise’s point, her situation is bad, but it’s not the fault of the concept.  It’s that the law puts too much power in the hands of someone who doesn’t care and ignores false negatives.  But you could have “weird” votes cast provisionally with a follow-up, for example, that would solve most problems.

But, as I said above, without transparency in vote-counting, none of these laws can make a difference.  Unless you can be sure your vote counted, your vote can be overturned by whoever does the counting or whoever writes/runs the program that does the counting.

MsMarie, it’s not that people do not have different types of photo id’s.  The issue is that in some states, like Texas, the proposed changes make so that even school/college photo id’s are invalid.  I agree with the use of a photo id of some sort, but not to the extent that many of these laws are taking it.