The Rise of Voter ID Laws

As of 2014, laws requiring voters to present some form of identification are in place in the majority of US states. Laws that require voters to present a current government-issued photo ID before voting are the most restrictive of these. States continue to consider additional requirements and to make changes to existing voter ID requirements at a rapid pace.

Impact on Older Adults

Although the majority of Americans have some kind of government-issued photo ID, as many as 11% do not. Among those who lack this kind of ID, many are over age 65. In fact, 1 in 5 citizens over age 65 are estimated to be without a current, government -issued ID. When states require citizens to present a specific form of ID before voting, those requirements can have a negative impact on the ability of older Americans to vote.

Older Americans may not have a current government-issued photo ID for a number of reasons. Because many older adults by choice or necessity do not drive, they may lack a common form of government-issued photo ID - a valid driver's license. Although states offer photo ID cards for non-drivers, it is possible to go through daily life relying on forms of ID that do not display a photo, such as Medicaid, Social Security, or bank cards. This is especially true of people who have been known in their communities for a number of years.

Additionally, most state laws require a person applying for a non-driver ID card to present documents verifying the person's citizenship, identity, and residence. These documents include a birth certificate and other verification which may be expensive or impossible to track down. For instance, people born in rural areas before the 1950s may never have been issued a birth certificate. In effect, most laws require an ID before they will issue an ID. With all of the hassle involved in traveling from office to office, filling out forms, and paying fees, there are any number of reasons why a person might give up on the idea of obtaining an acceptable ID before Election Day. At best, these voter ID laws can be an inconvenience. At worst, they keep people - mostly older and with lower incomes - away from the polls. All citizens deserve to have their votes count.

Using This Website

This website is a resource on voter ID requirements in each state. The map on the home page divides states into four categories:

Click on a state to view detailed information about its ID requirements, including:

Information will be updated as new developments occur. However, users are advised to check the last date of verification, listed at the bottom of each state page, to ensure that the information is current. When in doubt, check the source link for each state's official website.

VoterIDHelp.org is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this website should be construed as legal advice. If you have questions about a specific issue you are experiencing, then you should consult with authorities in your state.

Who is this website for?

This website is for everyone, but because voter ID laws tend to impact more older voters, it has particular use for individuals and organizations that interact significantly with older adults. See our blog post on education and outreach for five great ways to use this website to engage with members of your community.

Although there are many great websites containing data on voter ID laws from different states, their content is not usually aimed at the general public. Official state resources also vary in quality, comprehensiveness, and ease of use from state to state. This website summarizes publically available information and presents it in a way that is accessible to a wide audience. The format is similar for each state. We hope that by making this information as user-friendly and as straightforward as possible, we can eliminate some of the confusion surrounding voter ID requirements and help more people vote at the polls in 2016.

This website works best as the beginning of a conversation - not the end. Share this information with friends, family, and community members who may be affected by these laws. This resource can be a useful starting point for ensuring people you know understand what ID is required to vote and can obtain acceptable ID before the 2016 election.

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Who made this?

Erin E. McKee is a writer and third-year law student at Wake Forest University School of Law. Her areas of interest include elder and special needs law, health care law, and protecting the rights of women, families, and older adults. She is a former student of the WFU Elder Law Clinic.

Phillip Bost is a laboratory scientist and enjoys making websites like VoterIDHelp.org and DurhamHoods.com.