Federal Voter ID Requirements: The Help America Vote Act (HAVA)

Because voting is so important, the procedures must be accurate and efficient and must reflect the true intent of the legitimate voter; glitches whether intentional or unintentional are unacceptable. Both state and federal legislatures have addressed the issue of election reform, resulting in various laws including laws imposing voter identification requirements.

In states that have their own voter identification laws, those laws may apply instead of, or in addition to, the requirements of the federal statute, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Congress enacted HAVA in 2002 in response to some of the controversial issues that arose during the 2000 presidential elections.

The Help America Vote Act covers numerous aspects relating to elections and specifically imposes voter identification requirements under certain circumstances. HAVA mandates that any new registrant (voters who have not registered to vote prior to 2002 or voters re-registering in a different county or location since that time) must provide either a driver's license or the last four digits of his or her social security number at the time of registration. If the voter does not have either of these forms of identification, then he or she must provide proof of identity at the polling booth when they go to vote.

Types of Acceptable Identification

The following are some examples of documents allowed in some states to establish identity at a voting booth (states may require 1 or more of certain types of these documents):

  • Driver's license or state ID card
  • Passport
  • Employee ID
  • Student ID
  • Military ID
  • Utility bills
  • Bank statements
  • Paychecks
  • Concealed Handgun licenses

The types of acceptable identification vary from state to state. Some states require photo identification.

Provisional Voting

Even when the voter fails to provide proof of identity at the polling booth, HAVA requires that the voter has the right to vote. However, their vote will be considered provisional, and will not be counted in the results unless the voter's identity is confirmed in a timely manner. Additionally, every voter is entitled to know if their vote was counted or not. The law facilitates this by requiring each state to develop a system whereby provisional voters may access, information as to the status of their provisional vote at no cost.

If a person's vote is not counted, the law also requires that the voter be informed as to the reason why their ballot was not tallied.

HAVA Violations

Past violations of HAVA have typically involved whether states or specific polling locations have established the systems and provided adequate resources to voters, as required by the law. This may often involve whether adequate information was posted at polling booths and/or whether sufficient information was provided for those individuals who did not have an adequate ID, and voted (or failed to vote) using provisional ballots.

Know your Rights

Have you experienced violations in local election procedures, improper application of voter identification rules, or other voting issues related to HAVA. If you suspect that your civil rights have been violated, find out for sure. Contact a civil rights attorney in your area today.

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