Should voters be required to provide official identification to be able to vote?
The aftermath of the 2020 presidential election shined a spotlight on the extent to which newly proposed voter identification laws protect election integrity or restrict voter access
Rise of the Issue
Voter identification laws require that people who want to vote provide some form of official identification before being allowed to register to vote, receive a ballot, or to actually vote in the elections. As of 2022, 35 states require voters to present official identification at the polls, while the remaining states use other methods of validation, which vary from state to state.
With the 2020 elections and the contestation of its result by a part of the population, a larger debate around the necessity to prevent voter fraud re-emerged. While some argue that voter ID laws are a good way to reduce electoral fraud with only little burden on voters, opponents argue that requiring voter ID actually discourages some people from showing up at the polls and discriminates against minority groups and those less likely to possess photo identification.
South Carolina Creates First Voter ID Law
South Carolina becomes the first state to start requesting identification from voters at the polls.
The Help America Vote Act is Passed
In response to the controversial 2000 U.S. presidential election that saw millions of ballots disqualified, a new federal law requires first-time voters who registered by mail to present a form of identification to the appropriate state or local election official.
Supreme Court Upholds Indiana Photo ID Law
In Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, the U.S. Supreme Court rules in a 6-to-3 split decision that the burden of supplying a photo ID does not outweigh the state’s interest in preventing voter fraud.
Federal Approval of Local Election Rules Limited
The U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder invalidated a provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 that determined which “covered” jurisdictions were prohibited from changing their election laws without federal approval.
Texas ID Law is Ruled Discriminatory
The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down a strict voter ID law in Texas that limits the types of ID required to vote to a state driver's license or ID card, a concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, a military ID card, or a U.S. citizenship certificate with a photo.
Trump Supporters Question Election Legitimacy
In the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election that saw Joe Biden defeat Donald Trump, Trump supporters challenged the presidential outcome and immediately moved to propose voter identification legislation in states across the U.S.
Supporters and opponents differ on the extent to which they believe voter fraud has impacted recent elections and the types of fraudulent activities these laws are designed to prevent.
The two sides have polarized views on whether stricter voter identification laws would prevent many voters from marginalized groups from participating in elections.
Opponents say that the laws specifically target members of ethnic minority groups like Jim Crow-era racial discrimination laws, while supporters refute that such laws would negatively target African American and Hispanic voters.
Voter identification makes voting more accurate.
When someone applies for a voter ID, it provides personal information that gives poll workers a greater assurance that the individual has the right to vote — including a photograph, a signature, fingerprints, and more.
Voter identification can reduce the chances of voting multiple times.
Voter IDs can help poll workers document who comes to cast a ballot. This legislation can also mark absentee or mail-in ballots that were already filed so that a second ballot is not cast from an in-person vote.
Voter IDs can help register more voters through other channels.
The use of voter IDs could streamline the registration process — such as registering someone to vote when they earn or renew their driver’s license.
Voter IDs protect the value of the votes for everyone who casts a ballot legally.
A voter ID requirement strengthens voters’ rights by protecting the votes of all who vote legally because when voter fraud occurs, it dilutes and weakens the votes of all law-abiding voters.
Voter identification instills confidence in the democratic process.
More citizens may have greater confidence in election outcomes because they know that additional actions to secure the vote have been taken.
It deprives people of their right to vote.
There are more than 30 million people in the United States that do not currently have a photo ID that was issued by their local governing authority – meaning about 11% of the current population does not have the right to vote if there are strict ID laws in place.
Obtaining a voter ID is costly for people.
Even if the local government offers a qualifying voter ID for free, you might need to pay for a birth certificate, obtain other underlying documents, and then travel somewhere to have your application processed.
The presence of voter ID laws reduces voter turnout.
The presence of strict photo ID laws can reduce the levels of voter turnout, which is opposite to important principles of democracy.
Minorities are disproportionately impacted by voter ID laws.
Minority voters are more likely to lack a necessary voter ID than those who are in the majority. Up to 25% of African-Americans in the United States who are of voting age lack the government-issued identification they need to vote, while just 8% of people from Caucasian descent.
In-person fraud cases are exceptionally rare at the ballot box.
There are very few cases where someone misrepresents who they are when reporting to their local precinct to vote and these individual instances have not changed election results.