What Is a REAL ID and Do I Need It to vote?

The short answer is no. REAL IDs are not required to vote, at least not now.

Every state is different when it comes to voter identification. Some states (like Minnesota) do not require identification to vote. While other states (like Georgia) have strict photo ID requirements. Does it matter what type of ID you use? And is a REAL ID required after the 2020 enforcement deadline?

Continue reading to learn more about the REAL ID Act, when you need the ID, and how it affects voters in the U.S.

What is the REAL ID Act?

The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005. It establishes standards for identification forms (like a driver's license). The standards include how these IDs are issued and what they are used for. Most people associate REAL IDs with flying on a commercial flight, but they also must be used for:

  • Entering a power plant
  • Accessing federal facilities

Deadline for REAL ID Enforcement

The deadline for final enforcement for REAL IDs for all states has been extended to May 3, 2023, due to the ongoing COVID pandemic. As of the time of this writing,, all states will be issuing REAL ID-compliant licenses in 2023, although further extensions are possible. If an individual does not get a REAL ID, they must have acceptable alternate forms of IDs in order to board a commercial flight, enter a power plant, or access a federal facility.

Learn more about REAL ID Act and get answers to common questions about REAL IDs, including how to get one.

What states are compliant with the REAL ID Act?

As of November 2019, all states are either compliant, under review or have received an extension for the REAL ID Act. 

Do I need a REAL ID to vote in my state after 2020?

No, states do not currently require REAL IDs to vote. But REAL IDs can serve as an acceptable form of ID if your state happens to require a photo ID in order to register to vote or get your ballot on election day.

There are various levels of identification required to vote ranging from no identification at all to strict photo IDs. Not sure if your state requires a photo ID to vote? Check out voter ID laws for your state.

What happens if I need a new ID during the election?

If your driver's license or state-issued ID expires around or on election day, it's a good idea to plan to make sure you have proper identification. Note: all states that require photo IDs for registration or to receive a ballot require valid IDs. This means you cannot vote with an expired driver's license or ID card.

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