Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category


To require voter ID or not require ID? A Heated Question

15 June 2016

Has your state recently passed a Voter ID law? Want to know what the arguments for/ against this legislation are? Read our non-partisan breakdown of this heated political issue: 

In recent years, the topic of voter identification at the polls has been put into question. In 2000, 14 states required identification at the polls, and since then 34 additional states have introduced legislation to require it. Legislation in certain states was denied, however, the number of states with requirements has risen to 33. Identification varies from bank statements or utility bills to government issued photo IDs, depending on the state. 

There became an even more pronounced debate in 2013 when the Supreme Court ruled against section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act in the Shelby County v. Holder case. Section 4(b) required states to get Justice Department approval before changing voting laws; therefore, states are now able to change voting laws without Justice Department approval. However, the Justice Department still reserves the right to challenge voting laws on the basis of discrimination. 

Since this ruling, the number of states requiring government issued identification (Driver’s License, Passport) as a requirement for voting has increased from four in 2012 to nine in 2016. This legislation has proven controversial, with courts clarifying the legality of these laws. In Pennsylvania, House Bill 934, (requiring photo ID for voting) was passed and signed into law in 2012, then later struck down in 2014 by the state judicial system. Conversely,  North Carolina’s voter ID bill HB589 was disputed by the Justice Department, then upheld by a federal judge, remaining as law today. 

Proponents cite voter fraud prevention as the goal of requiring identification.  A 2005 bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform, containing former President Jimmy Carter, stated “The electoral system cannot inspire public confidence if no safeguards exist to deter or detect fraud or to confirm the identity of voters.” 

In addition, a 2012 report by the Pew Center found over 1.8 million deceased people were still registered to vote, and another 3 million were registered in multiple states. This creates a large pool of potential voting fraud claims and the investigations by state boards of elections into these claims have a history of incompletion.  

The Moreland Commission on Public Corruption found that New York’s State Board of Elections has closed less than 10% of the voter fraud complaints that were filed between 2008-2013.  The New York Board of Elections cited lack of manpower and resources to investigate the claims as they primary reason for the low closure rate. Supporters of voter identification legislation believe this issue could be solved by requiring more stringent identification requirements, as opposed to giving additional funding and oversight to the state election boards.      

Voter identification is not lacking in critics, despite the recently enacted laws.  The creation of barriers to voting is the leading argument against voter identification requirements.  Certain demographics have a harder time obtaining the identification, most notably the elderly, minorities, and low income persons.  

In 2012, 21 million eligible to vote citizens lacked government issued identification, according to a report published by Reuters.  A majority of these people fall under the previously listed demographics and can’t afford the time or money to obtain the identification required by many states.  

Another criticism is the origin or reasoning behind the legislation.  Tracking cases of fraud is inconsistent based on information gathered at the polls and currently required identifications. To put voter fraud detection in perspective, only 120 voter fraud cases have been filed by the Justice Department in the last 5 years. Many states don't collect the last 4 digits of voters Social Security Numbers, which is the official way to determine whether people with matching names voted or actual fraud occurred. 
This has brought on questions about which is more important to the voting process, integrity or participation at the polls.  The American Civil Liberties Union, an opponent of voter identification laws, believes that the impact of the actual cases of voter fraud are far less meaningful than the disenfranchisement of millions of voters.  Voter turnout based on age and demographics as well as cases of voter fraud will be under close scrutiny this election as these laws are put to the test at the polls. 

Historically, only states with Republican controlled legislatures have passed this type of legislation. Rhode Island, who has a Democrat controlled legislature, passed photo identification requirements for 2014 with bill S 400, becoming the first Democrat controlled legislature to do so.  This legislation’s first big test will be this election, given the amount of legislation passed since the 2012 election cycle. 

Since the passing of strict photo identification requirements in 2006, in Georgia and Indiana, the issue of voter identification has been hotly debated in the legislature and in political discussion.  With legislation being passed every few months and courts ruling on the issue almost as frequently you can be sure this issue will not leave the main stage of politics. 

The balance of voters rights and election security are currently in flux as states get ready for recent legislation to get its first real test in this year's election cycle.  With the election turning out be a hotly contested one, the balance of voter eligibility, voter turnout, and ballot security will be closely scrutinized in determining the future of elections and voter identification requirements.      

To learn what the voter ID procedure is in your state, or to learn how to register to vote visit:  
To view speeches, key votes, and issue positions related to voter ID laws, visit

This article was written by Jamie Macpherson, a Bios Department Staff.



Related tags: blog, Justice-Department, law, Supreme-Court, voters'-id

All fields are required.

Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Thank You!

You are about to be redirected to a secure checkout page.

Please note:

The total order amount will read $0.01. This is a card processor fee. Please know that a recurring donation of the amount and frequency that you selected will be processed and initiated tomorrow. You may see a one-time charge of $0.01 on your statement.

Continue to secure page »

Back to top