What Is Voter ID?

Protecting the right to vote is not a partisan issue. It’s an American issue.  No citizen should be prevented from exercising this basic right.

Students at UW-Madison learn about Wisconsin voter ID (2016)Voter ID laws are requirements that registered voters show some form of identification when they vote in person. Some states also require identification for absentee ballots. The specific rules about which kinds of IDs are acceptable vary from state to state. Voter ID is IN ADDITION TO a state's requirements for proving your identity and residency when you register to vote. 

We have seen massive confusion in EVERY STATE about these complicated voter ID rules -- among voters and poll workers alike. The laws put state bureaucrats and ill-trained DMV employees between eligible voters and the ballot box. 

You can help protect our American democracy by donating to VoteRiders' voter ID education and voter assistance programs today.

What's the big deal about photo ID to vote?

Valarie, WI voterSome people may think it’s easy to get a photo ID. Doesn’t everybody need one to drive a car, get on a plane, and buy cigarettes and alcohol? Well, not everyone drives - including people with disabilities, older adults, and low-income individuals. Not everybody smokes or drinks alcohol. And many citizens have their reasons why they do not travel on airplanes. Read law professor Justin Levitt's article about the truth behind needing an ID to board an airplane.

Ok, then … just get the ID that you need! Not so fast – obtaining a current, valid, government-issued photo ID in order to vote means at least one trip to the local DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles or wherever in each state you get a voter ID). Depending upon where you live, your local DMV can be up to 100 miles away; and the days and hours it’s open can be few.

The biggest difficulty can be trying to get the documents you need to prove who you are and where you live. To get a voter ID, a state may require a certified copy of your birth certificate with a raised seal (and, legal documentation of any change of name since then) – all of which costs money and can take a lot of time, plus a Social Security card plus two acceptable documents showing your name and address.

Click here for stories from real voters about how voter ID laws have taken away their right to vote.

Who Do Voter ID Laws Affect?

report released by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School analyzed laws in 14 states as of October of 2011. The study found that these laws had the potential to disenfranchise more than five million eligible voters in 2012. There are currently 32 states whose voter ID laws are in effect. 

Some laws specify strict current, government-issued photo ID requirements. Those who may not have a valid photo ID – primarily those without a current driver’s license in their state - include older Americans, veterans, voters of color, young adults, people with disabilities and individuals with low incomes.

To further understand the issue, a Brennan Center survey conducted in 2006 regarding US citizens and proof of citizenship yielded the following findings:

  • As many as 11 percent of voting-age United States citizens – more than 21 million individuals – do not have current (unexpired) government-issued photo identification.
  • 18 percent of American citizens age 65 and above do not have a current government-issued photo ID. Using 2005 census estimates, this amounts to more than six million senior citizens.
  • 25 percent of African-American voting-age citizens have no current government-issued photo ID, compared to eight percent of white voting-age citizens. Using 2000 census figures, there are more than 5.5 million adult African-American citizens without photo identification.
  • As many as 18 percent of citizens aged 18-24 do not have photo ID with current address and name; using 2004 census tallies, almost 4.5 million young adult American citizens are in jeopardy.

Further, voter ID laws disproportionately impact women. Those who have assumed a married name may still have their single-status name on their driver’s license vs. their name on the voter roll. The above-mentioned Brennan Center survey found that only 48% of voting-age women have easy access to their U.S. birth certificates with their current legal name, “and only 66% of voting-age women with ready access to any proof of citizenship have a document with current legal name.” The study used census data from 2000 and concluded that the only available proof-of-citizenship documents possessed by as many as 32 million voting-age women do not reflect their current name.

We encourage those in voter ID states to double-check and renew their IDs now, before the next Election Day.

Does Your State Require Voter ID?

32 states request or require registered voters to show ID in order to cast a ballot. The other 18 states follow federal guidelines in only requiring ID be shown by first-time voters in their county. Click for details about whether YOUR ID is valid to vote in your state.

Strict Voter ID Non-strict Voter ID No State Voter ID
  Alabama  Alaska  California
  Arizona  Arkansas  District of Columbia
  Georgia  Colorado  Illinois
  Indiana  Connecticut  Iowa
  Kansas  Delaware  Maine
  Mississippi  Florida  Maryland
  North Dakota  Hawaii  Massachusetts
  Ohio   Idaho  Minnesota
  Tennessee  Kentucky  Nebraska
  Virginia   Louisiana  Nevada
  Wisconsin*   Michigan  New Jersey
   Missouri  New Mexico
   Montana  New York
   New Hampshire  North Carolina
   Oklahoma   Oregon
   Rhode Island   Pennsylvania
   South Carolina   Vermont
   South Dakota   West Virginia
   Texas*   Wyoming
   Utah  
   Washington   

*The voter ID laws in Texas and Wisconsin are being appealed. West Virginia has enacted a voter ID law that is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2018. Iowa’s new, non-strict law goes into effect in 2018.

What VoteRiders is Doing

VoteRiders is the leading organization that focuses exclusively on voter ID. Our programs include:

 

1.Individual Voter Assistance: Including information and practical assistance with the transportation, documentation, and cost of securing ID to vote.  

2.Voter ID Education: We inform people about voter ID requirements and clarify the widespread confusion about voter ID and its relationship to voter registration and other voting rights issues. 

3.On-the-Ground Partnerships: We partner with local organizations to find, inform and help voters with voter ID, especially those most at risk of losing their right to vote.

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