Voter ID RequirementsIn 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in response to the 2000 Florida election debacle. In addition to providing funds for states to purchase new voting equipment, HAVA also mandates that all states require identification for first-time voters who register to vote by mail and did not provide verification of their identification with their mail-in voter registration form. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, "twenty-four states have broader voter identification requirements than what HAVA mandates." These states require all voters to show identification prior to voting. Seven states require that voters must show a photo ID, while the other seventeen accept additional forms of identification, such as a utility bill or student ID card. In Georgia and Indiana, voters may vote without ID using a provisional ballot, but they must return to election officials within a few days with the proper identification for their ballot to be counted. Some states simply allow voters to sign an affidavit declaring their identity, without the need to return to the officials after the election.
Although there has been little evidence of voter impersonation fraud at the polls, states have continued to pass restrictive and often burdensome voter ID requirements that may prevent otherwise eligible voters from participating. The debate over increasing access versus preventing fraud speaks to a lager discussion of needing to modernize the U.S. voter registration system. Most other democracies around the world require an ID to vote, but that is only because they have systems of automatic and permanent voter registration, where the government takes on the responsibility of ensuring full and accurate voter rolls. These countries also provide their citizens government ID cards, free of charge. Voter ID laws may increase the perception of more secure elections, but voters should always be able to substitute a signature for a valid ID.
Furthermore, voter ID laws should only be considered in tandem with steps to register all eligible voters and supply them with free government-issued identification cards.