Voter ID History

5/31/2017

History of Voter ID

While voter ID has been one of the hottest topics in elections policy for the last several years, its legacy extends back to 1950.

Woman with driver's licenseThat was when South Carolina became the first state to request that voters show some kind of identification document at the polls. No photo was required—just a document bearing the voter’s name. In 1970, Hawaii joined South Carolina with a voter ID requirement. Texas (1971), Florida (1977), and Alaska (1980) rounded out the first five. In some states the request was for an ID with a photo; in others, any document, with or without a photo, was fine. In all these states, provisions existed for voters to be able to cast a regular ballot even if they did not have the requested ID.

Over time, and with little fanfare, more states began to ask voters to present an identification document. By 2000, 14 states did so. These states had Democratic and Republican majorities.

In the 2000s, voter ID as an issue began to take center stage. The Commission on Federal Election Reform (aka the Carter-Baker Commission), in 2005 made a bipartisan recommendation for voter identification at the polls. 

Soon thereafter, Georgia and Indiana pioneered a new, “strict” form of voter ID. Instead of requesting an ID, these states required an ID. If a voter did not have the required ID at the polling place, he or she voted on a provisional ballot, and that ballot was not to be counted unless the voter returned within the next few days to an elections office and showed the required ID. These were first implemented in 2008 (after Indiana’s law was given the go-ahead by the U.S. Supreme Court, in Crawford v. Marion County).

In 2011, 2012 and 2013, the pace of adoption accelerated. States without ID requirements continued to adopt them, and states that had less-strict requirements adopted stricter ones. Many of the stricter laws were challenged in court, with mixed results.  Since then, the pace of adoption has slowed dramatically. Following is a chart with the progression of legislative enactments on voter identification from 2000 to 2016, and below that is a detailed timeline of enacted legislation. 

Voter ID Enactments 2000—2016

graph of voter ID enactments 2000 - 2014

2002   

Missouri (SB 675, sec. 115.427): Created a non-strict, non-photo ID requirement

2003   

Alabama (Act 381/HB 193): Created a non-strict, non-photo ID requirement

Colorado (Chap.164/SB 102): Created a non-strict, non-photo ID requirement

Montana (Chap. 475/HB 190): Created a non-strict, non-photo ID requirement

North Dakota (Chap. 172/SB 2394): Created a non-strict, non-photo ID requirement

South Dakota (Chap. 83/HB 1176): Created a non-strict, photo ID requirement

2004   

Arizona (Proposition 200, sec.5, approved by the voters in November 2004): Created a strict non-photo ID requirement

2005   

Georgia (Act 53/HB 244, sec.59): Amended original law passed in 1997; moved to strict photo ID (not implemented until 2008 due to court challenges)

Indiana (P.L. 109/SB 483): Created a strict photo ID requirement; implemented in 2008 after being cleared by U.S. Supreme Court)

Washington (Chap. 243/SB 5499, sec. 7): Created a non-strict, non-photo ID requirement

2006   

Missouri (SB1014): Amended 2002 law; would have moved to a strict photo ID requirement but was struck down under the state constitution and never implemented

Ohio (HB 3, Sec. 3505.18(A)(1): Created a strict non-photo ID requirement

2009   

Oklahoma (SB 692): Referred a non-strict, non-photo ID requirement to the ballot by the legislature; it received voter approval in November 2010

Utah (Chap. 45/HB 126): Created a non-strict, non-photo ID requirement

2010   

Idaho (Chap. 246/HB 496): Created a non-strict photo ID requirement

Oklahoma (Question 746, referred to the ballot by 2009 SB 692): Non-strict, non-photo ID requirements approved by voters

2011   

Alabama (Act 2011-673, HB 19): Amendment to original law passed in 2003; created a non-strict photo ID requirement; implemented in 2014

Kansas (Act 2011-56, HB 2067): Created a strict photo ID requirement

Mississippi (citizen initiative #27): Would create a strict photo ID requirement; approved by voters but required implementing legislation in 2012

Rhode Island (Act 2011-201/2011-199, SB 400/HB 5680): Created a non-strict, non-photo ID requirement for 2012 and non-strict photo ID requirement for 2014

South Carolina (Act 27, HB 3003): Amendment to 1988 law; the law was initially declared unenforceable by the U.S. Department of Justice, after administrative changes regarding the "reasonable impediment" clause were made, it was cleared by a federal court; while the law became stricter than the original 1988 law, it is still in the non-strict, non-photo ID category

Tennessee (Act 323, SB 16/HB 7): Amended 1990 law; moved law to strict photo ID

Texas (Act 123, SB 14): Amended a 1997 law to create a strict photo ID requirement; went into effect in 2013, and has faced court challenges; in August 2015 a federal appeals court ruled it could not be enforced while the case goes back to a lower court; a final ruling is yet to come

Wisconsin (Act 23, AB 7): Created a strict photo ID requirement; after several court cases, it went into effect in 2015

2012   

Minnesota (HF 2738): Put voter ID on the November 2012 ballot; it failed

Mississippi (Act 526, HB 921): Implemented strict photo ID requirement approved by voters in 2011 citizens’ initiative; went into effect in 2014    

New Hampshire (Act 2012-284, SB 289): Created a non-strict, non-photo ID requirement  

Pennsylvania (Act 18, HB 934): Would have created a strict photo ID; struck down by courts in 2014         

Virginia (Chap. 838, HB 9): Amended 1996 law; created strict non-photo ID requirement

2013   

Arkansas (Act 595, SB 2): Strengthened existing law; moved to strict photo ID. The law was struck down by the Arkansas Supreme Court in 2014

North Carolina (Act. 2013-381, HB 589, Part 2): Creates a strict photo ID requirement; implementation is set in the law for 2016; it was amended in 2015 to make it a non-strict photo ID requirement, still to be implemented in 2016

North Dakota (Act 167, HB 1332): Amended 2003 law; moved to strict non-photo ID requirement.

Oklahoma (Act. 34, SB 282 and Act 38, SB 752): Amended 2010 law; the law is still in the non-strict, non-photo category

Tennessee (Act 178, HB 229SB 125): Amended 2011 law; made law stricter by prohibiting use of county or municipal IDs for voting purposes, and allowing only state or U.S.-issued IDs

Virginia (Act 703,HB 1337): Amended 2012 law; moved to strict photo ID requirement

2014 

             None

2015 

North Carolina (HB 836); Amended 2013 law; moved law for 2016 from strict to non-strict requirement

North Dakota (HB 1333): Amended 2013 law; moved to strict photo ID requirement (Note: A long-term care identification certificate from a North Dakota facility is accepted, though this is the only exception to the photo ID requirement)

2016

Wisconsin (SB 295): Amended 2011 law; added a Veteran's Health Card to the list of acceptable IDs.

West Virginia (HB 4013): Creates a non-strict, non-photo ID requirement, which takes effect in 2018.

2017

Arkansas (HB1047): Created a non-strict, photo ID requirement after previous photo ID requirement was struck down in 2014. 

​Iowa (HB 516): Created a non-strict, non-photo ID requirement, which takes effect in 2019.

​North Dakota (HB 1369): Amended existing law, moving it to the strict, non-photo ID category.

Texas (SB 5): Amended existing law, moving it to the non-strict, photo ID category.

Additional Resources

NCSL Resources