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Elections Defined: Tackling Voter ID Laws

When voters show up to vote, how do election workers know they are who they say they are?

By Wendy Underhill  |  June 20, 2024

Elections Defined Video Series

This series of short videos features NCSL Director of Elections and Redistricting Wendy Underhill talking about some of the key steps of election administration you may not have heard of—from ballot curing to voter list maintenance to what it means to be a poll worker, and everything in between. View the complete series. 

Voter ID was the hottest issue in U.S. election administration for much of the previous decade. But what does the phrase “voter ID” mean from an administrative perspective?

In the U.S., voters are eligible to vote based on citizenship, age and where they reside, among a few other things. These factors are first checked during the voter registration process. In fact, voter registration is the first step in identifying voters.

But when voters show up to vote, how do election workers know they are who they say they are? Over half the states ask or require voters to show an ID that proves their identity. Other states may ask them to sign the poll books or state their name out loud. In states that request or require an ID, various options to obtain that ID or workarounds for that requirement are likely. Of course, like with everything else in election administration, the details are all state-specific.

Ready for more election administration answers? View the complete series for info on the topics below. Still have questions? More details can be found on these and other topics through NCSL’s election resources.

  • Ballot Duplication.
  • Ballot Collecting.
  • Ballot Curing. 
  • Provisional Ballots.
  • Pre-Processing Ballots.
  • Poll workers vs. Poll Watchers.
  • Post-election Audits.
  • Canvassing and Certification.
  • Results Reporting.
  • Voter ID.
  • Voter Registration List Maintenance.
  • Contact NCSL

  • For more information on this topic, use this form to reach NCSL staff.