Voter identification requirements and laws by state

With the November 2020 elections just around the corner, many citizens are wondering what documents are necessary in order to vote in the United States.

Other questions that arise around the elections are who can vote, what voter ID laws are, and how many states enforce them.

Since most of this information varies greatly from one state to the next, we will break it down and link to helpful resources throughout this guide to give our readers clear answers.

Who Can Vote in 2020 US Elections?

All citizens who comply with the following voting requirements may exercise their right to vote in the United States. The common voting requirements, valid to every US state, are:

  • Being a US citizen
  • Meeting their state’s residency requirements
  • Being 18 years old on or before Election Day
  • Certain states allow voters to register to vote before they turn 18 if they will be 18 by Election Day
  • Being registered to vote prior to their state’s voter registration deadline (except in North Dakota, which does not require voter registration)

Voting requirements in the US are different in every state. Nevertheless, there are basic qualifications every US voter must meet in order to exercise their right to vote in local, state or federal elections.

Voter Identification Requirements Per State

As mentioned above, voter identification requirements vary from one US state to the next. While a few of them require no documentation at all, most states require government-issued photo IDs.

Alaska, Colorado, and West Virginia allow citizens to vote by presenting a certified copy of their US Birth Certificate.

The following table lists Photo ID and Non-Photo ID for each US state.

Photo ID Non-Photo ID
Strict Georgia Arizona
Indiana North Dakota
Kansas Ohio
Mississippi
Tennessee
Virginia
Wisconsin
Non-Strict Arkansas Alaska
Alabama Colorado
Florida Connecticut
Hawaii Delaware
Idaho Iowa
Louisiana Kentucky
Michigan Missouri
North Carolina Montana
Rhode Island New Hampshire
South Carolina Oklahoma
South Dakota Utah
Washington
West Virginia

Voter ID Discrimination and Controversy

As of September 2016, 33 states had enacted some form of voter ID requirement.

If you are wondering what voter ID laws are about and how they discriminate voters, it would be interesting to look over the case of Texas. Texas’ 2011 voter ID law and why it was rejected by the US Justice Department of Justice is quite an illustrating example.

This law required Texas voters to produce valid photo IDs in order to vote. The problem is that 18 percent of registered voters throughout the state of Texas apparently lack state government-issued photo IDs that adequately match their voter registration cards.

Name and address mismatch is also a problem in this situation. Hundreds of voters either have the same first and last name within the same county, or have changed names (due to marriage, divorce or adoption), registered to vote with a nickname or new home address.

Additionally, one-third of said voters did not have facilities nearby, where they could obtain a state-issued photo ID. Some extreme cases included residents living more than 100 miles (160km) away from the nearest bureau.

This new voter identification requirement affected up to 2.3 million voters, according to an analysis by the Houston Chronicle.

The situation is even direr in Hispanic communities where up to 40% of voters lack the required government-issued photo IDs to vote.

Read more: Birth certificates for election identification in Texas

What US Citizens Can Do Before Election Day 2020

If you do not have your government-issued photo ID up-to-date, do your best to renew it as soon as possible. Most forms of US photo IDs require citizens to provide a certified copy of their US Birth Certificate alongside the application form.

Make sure to order a government-issued, legally-valid US Birth Certificate online to save yourself some time and hassle before Election Day.

US citizens interested in obtaining specific information in regard to state voter ID requirements may contact election officials in the jurisdiction where they wish to register and vote.

For more info on voter identification laws in effect for every US state in 2020, you may visit the National Conference of State Legislatures at NCSL.org,