Voter ID

The law is colloquially known as “Voter ID,” though many states do provide a separate form of ID for those that don’t have either a driver’s license or regular identification card.  The purpose of the law is to require voters to have identification with them when they go to the polls.

A state’s voting laws either exist or they don’t.  There are also states that allow students to vote using their student IDs.

Many states that don’t have a Voter ID law have a provision within the election law that requires you to show it during your first federal election in the state.  This mostly happens because systems don’t always have the most updated lists, and if you have to bring a receipt to show that you registered, they’ll want to compare the registration with your ID to make sure it’s you and that you’re registered to vote.

Despite the lack of an existing law, it’s recommended that you bring your ID for the following reasons:

  • You should never allow the poll worker to take it for granted that you are who you say you are.
  • It can happen that on your street, there are several people with your first and middle initial – all the worker has to do is check off the wrong box and you’ve stolen their vote.
  • If your name is difficult to pronounce, it’s easier for the poll worker to look at it on the ID, followed by matching it up on the roll.

Among the arguments for requiring ID at the pools:

  • Maintain the integrity that the person casting the ballot is who they say they are.
  • Ensure that only U.S. citizens are voting in elections.
  • With the myriad of transactions that are lesser in seriousness and importance than voting, that requiring it for voting would only be natural.

Among the arguments against requiring ID at the pools:

  • It disenfranchises people who don’t have access to the documents needed to obtain ID.
  • It is equivalent to a poll tax since the ID required costs money that not everyone has.
  • Voter fraud isn’t a widespread enough problem to warrant needing to have to verify people’s identity.

The arguments against Voter ID have been strong enough to warrant lawsuits that have been heard in federal courts.  The current precedent on Voter ID is Crawford v. Marion County, 553 U. S. ____ (2008), where the SCOTUS ruled:

  • States have a compelling interest in protecting voter integrity as it relates to the integrity of elections.
  • The court found that the majority of the voting population already possesses some form of state-issued identification that is used for every other purpose in life, and that form of ID meets the requirements for voting at the polls.
  • There are states that provide free identification for the exclusive purpose of voting, and others’ state-issued identification meets voting requirements, therefore the only remaining for one not to have some kind of identification would be if the voter was unwilling to to acquire the document.

For those that are ardent in casting a ballot, three recommendations to follow:

  • When you move to a new state, make the acquisition of that ID part of your registration process.  If you hold a driver’s license, it’s the most common piece of identification to show.  If you don’t drive, make sure you get a state ID as it will be needed for other transactions you might need to perform.
  • Register to vote as soon as possible by going to your town or city hall.  Recall that declaring a party affiliation is only necessary if you live in a closed primary state.  In open primary states, you will be given a choice of party.
  • When you move to a new state, keep a note of elections dates and put them into a calendar.  The clerk or office with whom you register to vote will have the dates available.

The most comprehensive resource for Voter ID laws is the National Council on State Legislatures.  Where the laws can vary greatly between individual states, the NCSL has the staff and resources to maintain a solid legislative map.  Since Voter ID laws see their fair share of litigation, it is recommended to check with your municipality or county clerk’s office for the most updated laws.