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The Voter’s Speakeasy featuring unbiased reporting and insight into life at Vote Smart from our staff, interns, and volunteers.

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

2016 June 15

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  ...

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