Voter Suppression and Voter ID Laws

Although state laws vary, many states require voters to present some form of identification before they cast their ballot. Some critics, however, argue that voter ID laws are a form of voter suppression.

There are 37 states with voter ID laws in place for the 2024 election. Proponents say these laws prevent voter fraud. Critics say they result in voter suppression.

Voter fraud typically occurs in one of two ways. If someone impersonates a registered voter and casts a ballot, they have committed voter fraud. If someone not eligible to vote casts a ballot anyway, they have also committed voter fraud.

This article discusses voter ID laws generally, along with arguments for and against voter ID laws. It also discusses the impact of these laws on specific groups of people, like voters of color. It concludes with a list of states that have different forms of voter ID laws.

What Are Voter ID Laws?

Voter ID laws require that a voter present a specific proof of identification or set of forms before casting a ballot. An acceptable ID generally has the following:

  • A photo; or
  • A specific type of address

To get acceptable photo identification, a person must provide documentation of the voter's identity (such as a birth certificate or social security card) and proof of address (such as a bank statement).

States accept the following common types of identification:

  • Driver's license
  • Utility bills
  • Bank statements
  • Paychecks
  • A government-issued ID showing one's name and address (e.g., a passport)

Some states have special requirements for first-time voters. For example, some states may require new voters to produce more identification to exercise their right to vote. For specific information about acceptable identification, check your state's laws.

Why Do States Have Voter Identification Requirements?

States generally cite preventing voter fraud as justification for voter identification laws. Ensuring election integrity is essential, given the importance of free and fair elections in America. Voter fraud can undermine the electoral process. So, states take measures like voter registration and identification laws to protect elections.

At the most basic level, ensuring that only registered voters cast their ballots or engage in early voting helps protect the electoral process. Ensuring trust in the election process also affects Americans' trust in democracy. For more information about election security, browse the Department of Homeland Security's Election Security page.

There are many critics of state voter ID requirements. They say voter ID laws are a form of voter suppression. Voter suppression occurs when one person or a group of people take action to prevent voters from casting a ballot. For more information, read FindLaw's article on voter suppression.

Common criticisms of voter ID laws involve statistics showing that such laws may reduce voter turnout and the number of ballots cast. Another common criticism is that specific populations are less likely than others to have access to acceptable ID types. The following section describes the controversy surrounding voter ID laws.


As noted above, voters generally need specific documentation to obtain valid identification. A common criticism is that some people may not have access to these documents. Without the ability to get a government-issued photo ID, they can't get a voter registration card. They can't cast a ballot on Election Day without properly registering to vote.

According to a 2012 American National Elections Study, white Americans are by far the most likely group of people to already own acceptable photographic IDs. According to the research, Americans who don't have acceptable IDs include the following:

  • 15% of 17- to 20-year-olds
  • 13% of Black Americans
  • 12% of adults living in households with incomes of less than $25,000
  • 11% of 21- to 24-year-olds
  • 10% of Hispanic Americans

Another data set shows that these laws impact specific groups of people more than others. These groups are statistically less likely to possess identification satisfying photo ID requirements. These groups include the following:

  • People of color (e.g., African Americans and Native Americans)
  • People with low incomes
  • The elderly
  • The disabled
  • Young people (e.g., college students)

Those who oppose strict identification laws argue that this amounts to voter suppression. Many of the voter ID laws have faced legal challenges in court, as explained below.

How Common Is Voter Fraud?

Research has shown that voter fraud is exceedingly rare. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, there were only 31 credible allegations of voter fraud over a 17-year period between 2000 and 2014. The Brennan Center published a series of articles debunking voter fraud myths, including those surrounding mail-in ballots and absentee voting.

Other sources contend voter fraud is more widespread than the Brennan Center reports. For example, The Heritage Foundation has reported over 1,500 instances of voter fraud, resulting in 1,276 criminal convictions. The Heritage Foundation also notes the U.S. Supreme Court's statement in a 2008 case, indicating that people have committed “flagrant" voter fraud throughout American history. It also says voter fraud presents a threat to democracy.

Despite the apparent rarity of voter fraud, polls suggest most Americans support voter ID laws. In fact, 76% of all people either “strongly" or “somewhat" prefer requiring voters to show government-issued identification when they vote. Another study from Monmouth University shows that most people support voter ID requirements. Monmouth's study shows the following:

  • 62% of Democrats support voter ID laws
  • 87% of independents support voter ID laws
  • 91% of Republicans support voter ID laws

According to the Pew Research Center, Democrats generally support laws that make voting more accessible. Republicans are more likely to support laws requiring voters to produce photo IDs before voting.

Voter ID Laws and Legal Challenges in Select States

Here is a closer look at several states' voter ID laws. State legislatures passed these laws on the premise of preventing voter fraud. But as you will see, people have challenged them as discriminatory.

Texas ID Law

Texas lawmakers passed a strict photo ID law in 2011. It required voters to show one of the following to election officials at their polling place:

  • A state driver's license or valid photo ID card
  • A concealed handgun license
  • A U.S. passport
  • A military ID card
  • A U.S citizenship certificate with a photo

The law, known as Senate Bill 14, took effect in 2013. A federal appellate court struck it down in 2014. The court determined it had a discriminatory effect on Black and Hispanic voters, who may not have been able to show proof of identification to obtain a voter ID card. Experts testified that over 600,000 Texans lacked the required identification.

The Texas legislature passed a less strict version of the law in 2017, called Senate Bill 5. This law permitted those who didn't have one of the approved forms of ID to vote if they signed a statement saying why they did not have the required ID. Such voters also had to show another form of ID, such as a utility bill.

The same federal court that struck down the 2013 law upheld the more recent law. For more information about Texas' voter ID laws, visit

North Dakota ID Law

North Dakota passed a controversial voter ID law in 2017. It required voters to provide identification that had a current residential address. The identification could not specify a P.O. Box. This effectively excluded thousands of Native Americans who lived on reservations.

State and county governments never assigned residential addresses on rural reservations. In some places, the government assigned addresses but didn't communicate the assignment. In some places, roads had multiple names. In other instances, the state had assigned multiple numbers to homes. Under the law, these people couldn't become registered voters.

Six plaintiffs challenged the law. In October 2018, the Supreme Court allowed the Secretary of State to let the voter identification law go into effect in time for the 2018 state elections. This lack of address uniformity caused the rejection of some voters' absentee ballot applications due to invalid addresses.

In 2020, the plaintiffs and the state of North Dakota reached a settlement in their lawsuit. The settlement “allows Native American tribes to issue ID cards that allow Native Americans to vote."

North Carolina Voter ID Law

In 2013, the North Carolina legislature passed a statute requiring voters to present certain types of photo identification cards to poll workers. The acceptable identifications included the following:

  • State driver's license
  • State-issued ID
  • Military ID
  • Passport

federal court of appeals struck down the statute in 2016, ruling that it had a racially discriminatory intent.

In 2018, the North Carolina General Assembly added a constitutional amendment to the ballot. Voters approved the Voter ID Amendment. After the amendment passed, the General Assembly approved Senate Bill 824. The bill designated the types of ID acceptable for voting. The criteria applied to IDs meant that election officials could no longer accept many employer and student IDs.

In February 2020, North Carolina's Court of Appeals blocked the new voter ID law from taking effect. In September 2021, a three-judge panel concluded that the voter ID law violated the North Carolina Constitution.

Currently, North Carolina voters must present some form of photo ID when they cast a ballot. Voters who do not have a driver's license can get a free voter identification card from their county board of elections.

Wisconsin Voter ID Law

Wisconsin's voter ID law, which passed in 2012, required voters to present one of the following forms of identification before voting:

  • Wisconsin state driver's license
  • State ID
  • Passport
  • Military ID
  • Naturalization papers
  • Tribal ID

Election officials could also accept a student ID card with a signature and a two-year expiration date. The law allowed voters without an acceptable photo ID card to cast a provisional ballot.

One estimate suggested that about 300,000 eligible voters lacked proper identification during the 2016 presidential election. Another estimate suggested approximately 17,000 registered voters could not vote due to the law in 2016. President Donald Trump won the election in Wisconsin by approximately 22,000 votes.

In July 2016, a federal judge ruled that Wisconsin's strict voter ID law was unconstitutional. The judge ruled that the state had to provide an alternative to showing ID, such as an affidavit.

In August 2016, a federal Appellate Court ruled that the state could implement the law. Among other things, the Court held that the law was constitutional so long as the state provided temporary free IDs to those in need and publicized the strict ID law. It also struck down the prior ruling that allowed for affidavits.

In 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled that the law was constitutional and did not discriminate against Black voters who may not have acceptable IDs. The Court found that expired student IDs also counted as acceptable IDs.

States That Have Voter ID Laws

The following states have some variation of voter ID laws. Generally speaking, states either have strict or non-strict voter ID laws. This list organizes the states using the National Association of State Legislatures' list of voter ID laws.

The types of acceptable IDs and procedures for presenting IDs vary by state. Consider browsing FindLaw's Voting section for more information about your state's voting laws.

Strict Photo ID Laws

Generally, states with strict voter ID laws require voters to provide specific photo identification before casting a ballot. Some of these states provide exceptions to their election laws. Wyoming, for example, accepts Medicare or Medicaid ID cards as valid identification.

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Tennessee
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Browse FindLaw's articles on each state's voting laws and requirements for more information.

Strict Non-Photo ID Laws

States with non-strict ID laws typically don't require specific photo IDs before voting. But these states do require voters to present some form of identification on Election Day. These states also typically provide exceptions to their rules. For example, in Texas, election officials may allow someone who doesn't have an ID due to a natural disaster to cast a provisional ballot.

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

State laws change relatively frequently. Consider visiting your state's local election official's website for more information.

No Photo ID Laws

The following states do not have any photo voter ID requirements:

  • California
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Vermont

Voters must still register to vote in these states. Registering to vote may require people to provide various forms of identification. If your voter registration is not current, you may have to present identification when you cast your ballot. Additionally, if you are a first-time voter, you may have to present a photo ID. Check your state's laws regarding voter registration requirements for more information.

Other Resources

You may find the following links helpful if you want to learn more about voting rights:

For more information, browse FindLaw's Voting section.

Contact an Attorney

If you believe you've been the victim of voter suppression because of a change in your state's voter identification laws, or if you have any questions about voting rights, talk to a civil rights attorney.

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