The State of Voter ID in America in 2023
Written by: Kathleen Unger
Voter ID laws spread and strengthened during the 2022 midterm election cycle. They are continuing to expand as politicians look to 2024. In state after state, legislators are proposing and passing – and governors are implementing – new or tougher ID rules for voters.
More than 25 million voting-age Americans do not have a current government-issued photo ID. Only two types of IDs are common to all 36 states (and counting) with voter ID laws: a current driver’s license or state ID in the voter’s state.
As part of its mission to provide voter ID education and assistance, VoteRiders constantly tracks laws and bills dealing with identification to vote. So, here’s the status.
After the 2020 elections, these states passed laws that were in effect for the 2022 midterms:
- Six states added new ID requirements for voting by mail: Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas.
- Two states – Missouri and Wyoming – restricted the types of acceptable IDs. Wyoming’s law is being appealed.
- Arkansas eliminated the ability of voters without an acceptable ID to fill out an affidavit. This, too, is being appealed.
- Iowa required ID for an absentee ballot delivery agent.
- Utah required a first-time voter to (a) present a copy of their unexpired Utah driver license or Utah identification card or (b) submit a copy of their ID with their mail-in ballot if they had not previously shown ID at the time of registration.
New Hampshire also added an extra ID requirement, effective January 1, 2023, for voters who register to vote in New Hampshire for the first time on election day to mail in proof of their identity if they do not have that documentation with them at the polling place.
Additional voter ID laws passed after 2020 are being litigated. Montana’s voter ID law was overturned and is currently under appeal in the Montana Supreme Court.
And in the long-running court battle over North Carolina’s restrictive photo ID law, the state Supreme Court declared in October 2022 that the law is invalid because justices found it was “motivated by a racially discriminatory purpose.” However, the balance of power between Democratic and Republican justices on the North Carolina court shifted as a result of the 2022 midterms. Republican legislators recently asked, and the Supreme Court agreed, to rehear the case.
Voter ID on the Ballot in 2022
Voter ID was on the ballot in three states in November 2022, with mixed results.
Michigan voters enshrined their state’s existing law in the constitution, confirming that voters without an acceptable photo ID can still cast a regular ballot if they complete an affidavit.
In Arizona, voters rejected a constitutional amendment (Proposition 309) that would have added new ID requirements for in-person and mail-in ballots.
In Nebraska, voters approved a constitutional amendment (Initiative 432) to require voters to present a photo ID. Lawmakers are now debating what the Cornhusker State’s voter ID law will entail.
More constitutional amendments are on the horizon in 2023 as legislatures try to bypass their governors’ veto pens. In Pennsylvania, the legislature missed a deadline to approve a measure that would have put a voter ID constitutional amendment on the ballot during the low-turnout primary in the spring of 2023. Given the current political composition in the House, it’s unlikely they will vote again to add it to the ballot in the near term.
ID Laws After the Midterms
In Arizona, another law passed by the legislature in 2022 went into effect in 2023. HB 2492 requires election officials to investigate the citizenship status of voters who use the federal voter registration application form without accompanying documentary proof of citizenship. Without such verification, the ballots of these “federal only” voters will be counted solely for Congressional elections; they are unable to vote in a presidential election – nor state or local elections under a previous law – nor by mail with an early ballot in any election until satisfactory evidence of citizenship is provided (unless they are an absent uniformed services voter or overseas voter as defined in the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act). The new law, which jeopardizes the voting rights of over 200,000 Arizonans, fails to provide any system to notify these voters. There are currently eight lawsuits pending over this law, including one from the US Department of Justice.
Ohio legislators wasted no time after the midterms. In a late 2022 lame-duck session, Ohio enacted one of the nation’s strictest government-issued photo ID requirements for voting in person. To vote by mail, Ohio now requires a government-issued ID number or a copy of the photo ID required to vote in person (which excludes an Ohio-issued Veteran ID card) – both with the voter’s absentee ballot application and with their ballot.
Texas and Florida: The Devil is in the Details
One trend that has spread to many states entangles absentee voters in red tape to both request and return their absentee ballots. We saw the consequences of this play out in Texas in 2022.
According to the Associated Press, in addition to denying a huge percentage of vote-by-mail applications, Texas rejected nearly 23,000 mail ballots (roughly 13% across 187 counties) during the nation’s first primary on March 1, 2022. “While historical primary comparisons are lacking, the double-digit rejection rate would be far beyond what is typical in a general election, when experts say anything above 2% is usually cause for attention,” the AP reported.
Why such an unprecedented number of dismissed applications and ballots?
Because of a new requirement that voters must provide the ID or social security number they had used to register to vote. Many did not remember which number they’d used and provided the wrong one, or they didn’t know of the new requirement at all. “It took me three tries and 28 days but I got my ballot and I voted,” a determined 75-year-old Houston voter told the AP.
The latest election law in Florida requires voters who wish to vote by mail to include with their application the number from their Florida driver’s license or state ID, or the last four digits of their social security number, and that number must match the ID number in their voter registration file.
According to Florida’s county supervisors of elections, there is a strong likelihood that many voters will provide the wrong number. The reason: most Floridians register to vote when they get their driver’s license, so that number is the one most likely to be on their voter record. But most voters provide the last four digits of their social security number when they’re asked to verify their identities.
The Florida Secretary of State’s office recently joined the state’s local election supervisors in opposing new identification requirements for mail-in ballots.
More Voter ID Proposals in 2023
Around the country, legislators are proposing changes, most of which would make it harder to vote by restricting the kinds of documents voters can use to prove their identity. Here’s a sampling of bills that have been introduced thus far (as of March 21, 2023):
- Illinois – would require voters to present an acceptable photo ID or a voter ID card to cast an in-person ballot;
- Indiana – would require absentee voters to provide the last four digits of their social security number as well as either their Indiana driver’s license number, state ID number, or the ID number assigned to their voter registration record;
- Maine – would require photo identification to vote;
- Nebraska – would require government (including tribal)-issued photo ID to vote in person; voting by mail would require a driver’s license or state ID number or a copy of another acceptable ID when requesting a ballot as well as when returning it;
- Nevada – would require photo identification to vote;
- New Hampshire – would eliminate option for a voter, registering at the polls on Election Day without acceptable ID, to sign an affidavit and cast a ballot;
- North Dakota – would require proof of citizenship before receiving a ballot;
- Texas – would add student photo IDs from public institutions of higher education to list of acceptable IDs;
- Virginia – replaces witness signature on mail-in ballot envelope with voter’s date of birth and last four digits of their Social Security number or a “unique identifier”;
- West Virginia – would require a state or federal photo ID to vote.
So far in 2023:
- Wyoming has enacted two new laws that (a) allow a concealed carry permit to be used as a photo ID when voting in person and (b) requires identification to request a mail-in ballot in person. Both bills will be effective on July 1, 2023.
- As of January 1, 2024, Idaho will prohibit the use of a student ID to vote in person.
Impact of Intimidation on Voter ID
Since the 2020 election, 26 states, including Florida and Georgia, have enacted, expanded, or increased the severity of 120 election-related criminal penalties. Enhanced investigation and prosecution comprise a key focus of the 21 anti-voting bills Texas legislators prefiled in advance of the 2023 legislative session. Such an intimidating environment compounds the disenfranchising impact of confusing, onerous, and ever-changing voter ID laws.
Voter ID confusion leads to intimidation, which is inherent in these complicated, expensive, and time-consuming laws. Indeed, some new laws actually enhance that intimidation because they give partisan poll watchers seemingly unbridled power while simultaneously constraining election officials from controlling inappropriate behavior.
REAL ID Update
In 2022 the federal government announced a delay in the implementation of REAL ID.
Starting May 7, 2025, residents in every U.S. state and territory as well as the District of Columbia will need to present a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or ID card, or another acceptable form of identification (such as a valid U.S. passport), to board commercial aircraft, access secure federal facilities, or enter a nuclear power plant. The previous deadline was May 3, 2023.
REAL ID, per se, is not required to vote. However, at least 20% of the states (including Florida and Georgia) issue only a REAL ID when a resident renews or obtains a new driver’s license or state ID – the primary types of ID used by the vast majority of voters. Importantly, REAL ID compounds the widespread confusion surrounding voter ID.
Bottom line – based on VoteRiders’ on-the-ground experience, corroborated by several reputable studies – confusion and intimidation deter many millions of eligible citizens from voting even though they have a valid ID.
VoteRiders Stands Ready to Help
Our most important message is that NOW is the time to act. In the nearly 11 years since I founded VoteRiders, I’ve learned that procrastination is not the voter’s friend when it comes to voter ID.
Under normal circumstances it can take a long time – even six months – for governmental agencies to issue a certified copy of a birth certificate or a marriage license.
So, please do not wait to make sure you have the ID you need to vote. If you or someone you know has a question or needs free assistance in securing an ID so they can participate in the very foundation of our Constitutional Republic, VoteRiders is here to help.
Kathleen Unger is the Founder and Board Chair of VoteRiders.