Journalism in the Public Interest

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?

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Cheryl Schillingowski

July 31, 2012, 12:07 p.m.

We all know why they want voter ID laws. They want to disenfranchise democrats. There are a lot of people that don’t have photo ID’s. Elderly that don’t drive anymore, a lot of elderly don’t have birth certificates so they can’t obtain one. A lot of the poor don’t have ID’s. They don’t have drivers license because they can’t afford to own a car. A lot of students don’t have the proper ID because some states won’t let them use their student ID’s. There are plenty of people out there that don’t have them. If people would just think they would realize how difficult it can be for a lot of people. No one has any empathy anymore. What a sad country this has become.


July 31, 2012, 12:52 p.m.

Cheryl - This is the standard democrat argument. First, you assume that none of these elderly and minorities ever participate in any of the 60 or more activities that presently require Photo ID, including applying for government benefits or entering a federal building or courthouse. Second, how would you assure that the person casting a ballot is entitled to vote?? The honor system? Third, the state, when requiring Photo ID must simplify the process of obtaining an ID. Fourth - did you read about the young white male who went to Eric Holder’s polling place, asked for and was given Eric Holder’s ballot. How would you, in your simple democrat mindset, stop this.


July 31, 2012, 2:52 p.m.

It is amazing to me that our society has become this crazy over something as trival as showing ID. This is crazy and please people stop using the word disenfranchised, what does that even mean? I am 55 and have never used it, now since our great president started using it the word is all the buzz.. stop being sheep, think for yourselves. No one is being put out, no one is being stopped from voting and when did this become a race issue, I am black and I do not see this? when did the Democrates become the only people in America that think they can talk for me? I have ID, I have a job stop trying to help me by acting like you know me. This is insane, if you don’t have ID go get it, short and simple.


July 31, 2012, 2:58 p.m.

Ted - Thank you very much. You have hit the nail on the head. People like you should be running for office.

Jerry Buerge

July 31, 2012, 8:30 p.m.

Let me say this again, just in case anyone did not understand me the first time.

Every one of us has the best ID available, bar none!

Right at the end of our finger tips. Always available and never to be lost OR duplicated when offered in person anywhere you may be and then never to be swiped and used by another person within reach of your location.

If you really are sincere about wanting to make sure that each person voting can be recognized as an individual, this is the only practical way to do so economically and assuredly.

Why would any forthright person wished to do this any other way?


Aug. 1, 2012, 12:52 a.m.

1)  Can you provide the proof on what you suggested about someone saying he was Eric Holder and being given a ballot to vote?  Where did this happen—state, city, precinct.  I would like to have that verified.
2)  You suggest that voting is not Constitutional.  Originally, only male property owners could vote.  The right to vote regardless of race, color, of previous servitude was provided in 1870 through Amendment XV to the Constitution; women were granted the right to vote in 1920 through Amendment XIX to the Constitution; and the right to vote at the age of 18 was set in 1971 through Amendment XXVI to the Constitution.  So i would submit that voting is constitutional.  Or do you have other information?


Aug. 5, 2012, 12:48 a.m.

1.  what proof do you have that some stranger can go in and get a ballot under the name of Eric Holder and use that ballot to vote?
2.  You say that voting is not constitutional.  However, amendments to the Constitution become part of the document.  See Amendment:
a)  XV.  Guarantees all the right to vote regardless of race, etc.
b)  XIX.  Gives women the right to vote.
c)  XXVI.  Gives citizens over 18 years of age the right to vote.
So let us spend our time making it easier for all eligible voters to exercise their right.  Any effort which could possibly be a barrier to exercising that right should fail by its own weight.


Aug. 5, 2012, 4:36 p.m.

Check this out to see how easy it is to get someone else’s ballot

Zelly Kurtlen

Aug. 6, 2012, 9:15 p.m.

How can you not mention ALEC, the org. behind this law and “stand your ground law”, and every other repressive law on the books?  Look up ALEC Watch for yourselves and you will see what I mean.


Aug. 6, 2012, 10:03 p.m.

you asked how a young white guy got Eric Holder’s ballot. I showed you. Don’t go off on another track. He got the ballot with no effort whatsoever. Deal with it. Enough. Bye
Don’t forget Brian Terry

Jim Linder

Aug. 16, 2012, 4:12 p.m.

My only concern, is that now all it takes to keep someone from voting, is to steal their ID.


Aug. 16, 2012, 11:21 p.m.

Let me state first I am black and I find these liberal arguments pathetic. You guys just want to ignore the fact that to do many important and not so important things in this country you need a picture id.

For example…
Get a bank account
Apply for food stamps
Buy spirits
buy cigarrettes
Rent an apartment
Get a job
Buy a house
Apply for unemployment
and so on….

Now…no matter how poor we “helpless poor black people are” we find away to do all the above.

And let’s make no mistake about it…you liberals want this to be a racial thing.

How is it we poor hopeless folk are required to have ID for all the stuff I listed above, but you think we should not have one when we vote?

Color me confused!!!!!

Ps. I will stipulate these new laws are politically motivated by the republicans but that does not mean they are not fueled by their concerns about voter fraud.

But as a black man…I really don’t care what their motives are. My concern is this law fair or unfair. And to me it is a fair law. We are required to have ID’s for far less important things than voting yet you liberals don’t complain about that. Could this be because your motives are politically motivated too?

Like Public Enemy said….“Beware of the other hand..especially when it’s coming from the left.


Aug. 17, 2012, 12:13 a.m.

I raised the question of getting Eric Holder’s ballot and voting.  I note that he never got the ballot nor did he vote.  He came up with the, “I don’t have my ID here.”  My guess is that he wouldn’t go ahead for fear of doing jail time or financial penalty.  As far as the O’Keefe guy registering Tim Tebow and Tom Brady, that scenario supposedly took place in Minnesota.  The requirement for voter registration here is that the registration has to be completed 20 days before voting so the identity of the voter can be checked out.  What address do you think Tim Tebow would have used and do you think that he would have been registered in Minnesota?  Further, you can download all the registration forms you want so what do you suppose O’Kefe did with the 20 forms he got?  You haven’t yet proved that fraud actually took place.

Chris Hughes

Aug. 17, 2012, 3:14 a.m.

I think Ms Denise Chartier Dorsey correctly identifies a key problem.  The production of voter ID is a discouragement to people who may lack confidence, demotivating them from trying to vote, for fear of the humiliation involved in being refused.  In the UK or at least in GB (I declare an interest - British citizen and former election candidate for local councils) a registered voter receives a poll card about a week before the election at their registered address telling them where and when to vote.  On going to vote you can either produce the card or simply give your name and address.  Even that is a discouragement; when “knocking up” voters on polling day a constant issue was “I’ve lost my card, I can’t vote” and the need to reassure electors that they did not need the card to vote.  In democracies under the rule of law the erection of barriers which discourage voting is of concern, especially where there appears little evidence of any irregularities which would be stopped by the voter ID system.


Aug. 17, 2012, 10:38 a.m.

For those here who claim they wish to eliminate what they claim to be bogus votes being cast by enough people to game an election as their reason for demanding that a photo ID be presented, I have the following questions.

If you really are concerned about bogus voting, why are you not in favor of a test that is far better and cheaper to administer than a photo ID will ever provide? 

Don’t you realize that the photo IDs you are promoting are a false positive fix for a problem that most of us do not believe acturally exists? Have you never known someone who has obtained a false ID for some purpose they believe justified the deception? Many people have done so, and not all of them for totally illegal purpose, either.

You counter this fact with the simplistic statement that you want to promote an assurance that the people who are voted into office are the true choice of the electorate. A very laudable objective That I believe we can all share, but our quest had better not stop at positive voter identification if that can be expected to be achieved some day.

Personal identification is best proven by the individual proof of same that every one of us already has, all at no extra cost or inconvenience, which identifies each of us in a way that can NOT be effectively altered throughout our life time. That existing ID is at the ends of their finger tips. It, for a generic understandable single word is their fingerprint.

You may ask if there is a danger in supplying a copy of it for a purpose such as voting, or cashing a check, or any other purpose you might care to offer as an excuse to demand such a display of originality and positive ID, but if you are who you claim to be, there shoud be no hesitation to leave this personal proof of your identity to register your action and presence - UNLESS you are attempting to break a law or falsify your identiry for whatever purpose.

Why do you not join me in demanding that the Photo ID is NOT the way to remove fraud from the voting booth, but rather an invitation to committ more of the same to the point where it then does serve to game the system as well as add increased cost to a system that would have to be overwhelmed with reasonably current photographic records of the individual assigned to vote at each precinct location on a real-time basis and then still not eliminate the possibility of the same individual registering at more than one voting location with modified photographic backup through either simple disguise techniques designed to fool the inexpert observer?

Fingerprint comparison of the uniqueness of the individual patterns and locations of significant areas within the fingerprint pattern does not require a great amount of digital data per individual.  Certainly nowhere close to that which would be required to differentiate between people who closely resemble each other.  This means that over a period of time and with a much more reasonable expectation of effective result, an automated system can automatically verify that each individual recorded data record was not been duplicated within a practical distance of any particular location.

In my view, even the threat of a random sampling of such records would serve to detear most individuals who might otherwise be tempted to risk being caught voting illicitly or illegally from doing so.  Do you believe that even the most brazen individual would be willing to leave such self identifying evidence behind?

Stack that up against your photo ID for improved assurance of a fair vote.


Aug. 18, 2012, 1:08 p.m.

The day that the people who are for these Voter ID laws volunteer to pay for IDs for all those who can’t afford them or go get them for those who have no transportation or have mobility issues, on that day I will believe this is not about disenfranchisement.  These people will never volunteer to do so because they abhor the poor.  It’s pretty clear this is simply about not wanting poor people to vote.  This is quickly becoming a country by the wealthy, for the wealthy.

Paul Moen

Aug. 18, 2012, 3:36 p.m.

to nkbay
I have to take exception to two of your comments.  You suggested that some stranger was able to get Eric Holder’s ballot for voting.  Look again at that video.  As soon as the election clerk asked the stranger to sign in, he left under the guise that his ID was in the car.  In fact, he never completed the sign in process; never received Mr. Holder’s ballot; and never voted.  Perhaps he was aware of the penalties for voting fraud and was not willing to do time and pay a fine.
Next you said that voting was not constitutional.  Look at the Constitution with its amendments.  Amendment XV (1870) guaranteed voting rights regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.  Amendment XIX (1920) gave women the right to vote.  Amendment XXVI set the age for voting at 18.  So it would appear that voting is, indeed, constitutional.  Or are you suggesting that the amendments are not a part of the Constitution?
Have a good day.

Thomas W. Sonandres

Aug. 20, 2012, 12:12 p.m.

Possibly, likely, or definitively true but not relevant are:

—That principles notwithstanding, the not-so-hidden Republican disenfranchisement of Democratic voters and that Dems fight to gain/retain many thousands+ more likely votes
—The very low percentage of substantiated voter fraud & the even lower substantiated percentage (zero?) of illegal votes that have decided a close election,
—That illegal votes could theoretically decide a close election,
—That fingerprinting would be better (but impractical as a nationwide quick-fix?)
—That photo-ID would not eliminate fraud, be it illegal voting or vote-counting.
—That on the voting-issue extremes are legitimate examples of (a) voter fraud and (b) of many hundreds? of times more legitimate voters disenfranchised due to extreme difficulties or inabilities to obtain documents and/or other legitimate hardships,

Given the given today (i.e., the uptick in (Republican-controlled?) state legislatures passing voter ID laws), the easier/fairer quick-fix, noted in several other comments, would be to simplify/unburden the voter ID procurement process.  For example:

—Accepting documentation other than a birth certificate in hardship cases,
—Reducing or eliminating voter registration fees in general, and for hardship cases, waiving/minimizing document-procurement fees
—Accelerated state processing of voter registration for problem cases—2%? of the voting population, with states required to periodically report stats/progress
—The two parties agree in principle and in action to minimize voter fraud AND simultaneously maximize the ability of the eligible to easily register to vote, with the DOJ following up on both.

The merits of this proposal begin with taking this issue off the table on which there are far more important ones.  Or so I think. 

NOTE TO SUEVON LEE:  In future updates of your excellent “Everything You Wanted To Know…” include a paragraph summary on analysis/trends of the difficulty/ease of voter registration in the 50 states.  Tom

Paul Moen

Aug. 20, 2012, 2:23 p.m.

So let’s cut to the chase and settle some of the nonsense.
1.  No stranger registered as Eric Holder, received Mr. Holder’s ballot and voted using Mr. Holder’s ballot.  Look at the video again.  The stranger never signed in or received the ballot and, therefore, never voted using Holder’s ballot. 
2.  Just because someone put “Tebow” in the last name space on a Minnesota Voter Registration Application Form does not mean that the form was ever completed or turned in. 
So for those of you who are claiming fraud, give us the details as to where it took place, etc., etc.

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