The U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 18 permitted Texas to use and enforce its strict photo voter ID law for the November 2014 election. The law was enacted in 2011, faces a challenge in federal court. This ruling does not address the constitutionality of the law.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 9 blocked Wisconsin from implementing its photo voter ID law, enacted in 2011. The decision did not rule on the merits of voter ID, but rather that there was not enough time to implement a new election-related law so close to the Nov. 4 general election. A lower court recently ruled that the law requiring that voters show photo ID before being allowed to vote could go into effect while a court case continued.
A total of 34 states have passed laws requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls. As of October 13, 2014, 31 of these voter identification laws are in force. Pennsylvania's law has been struck down and will not be appealed; North Carolina's law, enacted in 2013, goes into effect in 2016; and Wisconsin has been blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court from implementing its law for 2014, pending a court case. Scroll over the map below for state-by state details.
The remaining 19 states use other methods to verify the identity of voters. Most frequently, other identifying information provided at the polling place, such as a signature, is checked against information on file. See NCSL’s Voter Verification Without ID Documents.
Please note that some of the 31 states with voter identification laws in place have enacted stricter requirements with implementation dates in the future. The current, in-effect laws are used here, with footnotes that identify stricter laws to be implemented in 2015 or 2016.
Proponents see increasing requirements for identification as a way to prevent in-person voter impersonation and increase public confidence in the election process. Opponents say there is little fraud of this kind, and the burden on voters unduly restricts the right to vote and imposes unnecessary costs and administrative burdens on elections administrators.
Variations in Voter Identification Laws
Voter ID laws can be categorized in two ways. First, the laws can be sorted by whether the state asks for a photo ID or whether it accepts IDs without a photo as well. Second, the laws can be divided by what actions are available for voters who do not have ID. These two categorization schemes can and do overlap.
Photo vs. non-photo identification: Some states request or require voters to show an identification document that has a photo on it, such as a driver’s license, state-issued identification card, military ID, tribal ID, and many other forms of ID. Other states accept non-photo identification such as a bank statement with name and address or other document that does not necessarily have a photo. Using this categorization for laws that are in effect in 2014, 15 states ask for a photo ID and 16 states also accept non-photo IDs. (To see this difference, look at the columns in Table One.)
Procedures for when a voter does not have identification: If a voter fails to show the ID that is asked for by law, states provide alternatives. These laws fit two categories, non-strict and strict. (To see this difference, look at the rows in Table One. )
- Non-strict: At least some voters without acceptable identification have an option to cast a ballot that will be counted without further action on the part of the voter. For instance, a voter may sign an affidavit of identity, or poll workers may be permitted to vouch for the voter. In some of the “non-strict” states (Colorado, Florida, Montana, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont), voters who do not show required identification may vote on a provisional ballot. After the close of Election Day, election officials will determine (via a signature check or other verification) whether the voter was eligible and registered, and therefore whether the provisional ballot should be counted. No action on the part of the voter is required. In New Hampshire, election officials will send a letter to anyone who signed a challenged voter affidavit because they did not show an ID, and these voters must return the mailing, confirming that they are indeed in residence as indicated on the affidavit.
- Strict: Voters without acceptable identification must vote on a provisional ballot and also take additional steps after Election Day for it to be counted. For instance, the voter may be required to return to an election office within a few days after the election and present an acceptable ID to have the provisional ballot counted. If the voter does not come back to show ID, the provisional ballot is not counted. Using the non-strict/strict categorization, 21 states have non- strict voter ID requirements, and 10 have strict requirements.
See State-by-State Details on In-Effect Voter ID Requirements (Table 2, far below) for specifics.
Table 1: Voter Identification Laws In Force in 2014**
** This table refers to laws that are in effect in 2014; Pennsylvania also has enacted a strict photo voter ID law, but it has been struck down by state court and is not in effect. North Carolina also enacted a strict photo voter ID law in 2013, with an implementation date in 2016. Per a U.S. Supreme Court order on October 9, Wisconsin's strict photo voter ID law will not be implemented for the 2014 general election. Therefore, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin are not included in this chart of in-force laws.
 Arkansas's strict photo voter ID law was struck down by the Arkansas Supreme Court, leaving a pre-existing non-strict, non-photo law in effect.
 Some might call Alabama’s law a strict photo identification law, because voters who don’t show a photo ID will generally be asked to cast a provisional ballot and then must bring the required ID to an election office by 5 p.m. on Friday after Election Day. However, there is an alternative: two election officials can sign sworn statements saying they know the voter.
 Some prefer to call Oklahoma a photo voter ID state, because most voters will show a photo ID before voting. However, Oklahoma law also permits a non-photo voter registration card issued by the appropriate county elections board to serve as proof of identity in lieu of photo ID.
 Texas enacted in 2011 a strict photo voter ID law, replacing its existing non-strict, non-photo ID law. It was implemented in 2013. On Oct. 9, 2014 a federal judge struck it down; on Oct. 14, a federal appeals court re-instated the law on the basis that it was too close to the general election to change the rules. On Oct. 18, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that the law can be in effect for the November 2014 election.
First Time Voters
In addition to the laws governing what identification all voters must show at the polls, first time voters may face additional requirements. The federal Help America Vote Act (section 15483(b)(2)(A)) mandates that all states require identification from first-time voters who register to vote by mail and have not provided verification of their identification at the time of registration. The act lists a "current and valid photo identification" or "a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter” as acceptable forms of ID.
Exceptions to Voter Identification Requirements
Most states with strict voter identification requirements make some exceptions. Including exceptions from laws that both are and are not in place for 2014. These exceptions may include people who:
- Have religious objections to being photographed (Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin)
- Are indigent (Indiana, Tennessee)
- “Have a reasonable impediment” to getting an ID (South Carolina)
- Do not have an ID as a result of a recent natural disaster (Texas)
- People who are victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking and have a "confidential listing" (Wisconsin)
Additionally, voter ID requirements generally apply to in-person voting, not to absentee ballots or mailed ballots.
All voters, regardless of the type of verification required by the states, are subject to perjury charges if they vote under false pretenses.
2014 Legislation on Voter Identification Requirements
This section last updated June 25, 2014
Voter ID continues to be a high-profile issue in many state legislatures in 2014, although not as active as in the previous three years. In 2013, 30 states considered voter ID legislation. In 2012, legislation was introduced in 32 states. In 2011, 34 states considered voter ID legislation. For 2014, 24 states have proposals to create new voter ID requirements, or amend existing voter ID laws.
The following bills have been introduced in 2014 or are carried over from 2013. Unless otherwise noted, these have been introduced in 2014.
New Voter ID Proposals | Legislation Active in 2014
Illinois—HB 3007, HB 976,SB 1393, SB 1682, SB 1685 (all carried over from 2013); HB 4353, HB 5524
Iowa—HB 485, SB 85 (all carried over from 2013; failed)
Maryland—HB 1094 (failed)
Massachusetts—HB 572, HB 580, HB 586, HB 592, HB 626, HB 3308, SB 335 and SB 339 (all carried over from 2013)
Minnesota—HB 1612 (failed)
Nebraska —L 381 (carried over from 2013), L 622 (both failed)
New York —A 3788, A 3789 and S 100
West Virginia—HB 2215, HB 3107, HB 3117, HB 4479 (failed)
Strengthening Existing Voter ID Laws | Legislation Active in 2014
Alaska—HB 3 (failed)
Colorado—HB 1128 (failed)
Kentucky—SB 10 (failed)
Missouri—SJR 31, HJR 47, SB 511, HB 1073 (passed first chamber)
New Hampshire—HB 1506 (failed)
Oklahoma—HB 2106, HB 2116 (failed); SB 1284 (failed)
Other Changes to Voter ID Laws | Legislation Active in 2014
Alabama—SB 166 would require the existing strict photo ID law to be in effect by the 2014 general election (failed)
Arizona—SB 1433 would add student ID cards to list; HB 2246 would sets up a task force to study elections, including studying the demand for provisional ballots based on ID requirements (failed)
Illinois—HB 976 (carried over from 2013) would require Voters Identification cards be provided for those who do not have an acceptable photo ID.
Kansas—HB 2260 (carried over from 2013, failed) would permit the use of an affidavit in lieu of photo identification.
Michigan—HB 4983/SB 467 (carried over from 2013) would expand the list of accepted IDs.
New Hampshire—HB SB 183 (failed) would add ward clerk to list of officers who can check ID (passed first chamber); SB 206 establishes requirements for challenging alternative IDs (enacted).
Oklahoma—HB 3150 would require finger imaging for voter identification purposes.
Pennsylvania — SB 69 and SB 543 would substitute the current list of IDs acceptable for voting purposes with a longer list including several forms that do not bear a photo; HB 876 and SB 636 would expand the authority to issue voter identification to include the district offices of members of the General Assembly' HB 1675 would permit non-photo options. HB 1295 would permit the use of expired documents. All carried over from 2013.
Rhode Island — HB 5776 and SB 359 (carried over from 2013) and HB 7767 and SB 2641 (introduced in 2014) would repeal Rhode Island's existing voter identification law; SB 2383 would add options to the list of accepted IDs.
South Carolina — HB 3003 would include a student ID card in the list of IDs acceptable for voting purposes; SB 29 provides that a person with a reasonable impediment to producing a valid photograph identification due to a religious objection shall submit a written statement with the provisional ballot; SB 69 would allow electors who fail to produce a valid and current photograph identification to complete a statement at the polling place and affirm that the elector meets certain qualifications. (All carried over from 2013; all failed.)
Tennessee — HB 252/SB 1082 would permit the use of student IDs for voting; HB 292/SB 1098 would allow the use of ID issued by the county election commission; SB 1082 would permit the use of student IDs. HB 229/SB 125 would change the list of accepted IDs. (All carried over from 2013; all failed.)
Virginia—HB 83 would include a revoked driver’s license to serve as voter ID so long as it is unexpired; HB 564 would allow a reasonable name match against the poll book. All carried over from 2013.(Both failed.)
Wisconsin—AB 493 (carried over from 2013, failed) would permit Election Day attestation to indigence, religious objection, or lack of documents, and would permit veterans identification cards to be used.
PLEASE NOTE: The information provided below and throughout this webpage should be used for general informational purposes and not as a legal reference. If you have questions regarding the voter ID requirements in your state, please contact your local election administrator.
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