Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2013

Abstract

Voter identification (ID) was the hottest topic in election law debates in numerous state legislatures throughout 2011 and 2012. In fact, in 2012, voter ID legislation was introduced in 32 states. The 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board served as the impetus for the flurry of recent changes in state voter ID laws across the country. In the Crawford decision, the Supreme Court upheld restrictions on voting, specifically upholding strict photo identification requirements when voting in person at the polls on Election Day. This article discusses the right to vote, recent voter photo ID requirements implemented by various states including Tennessee after the Crawford decision, and alternatives to strict photo ID laws. Part I presents a historical overview of election laws and the right to vote as well as the history of voter ID laws, including a discussion of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2008 Crawford decision. Part II provides a general overview about the types of voter ID laws and summarizes the arguments made for and against various voter ID laws, especially strict photo ID laws. Part III summarizes state voter ID legislation from 2001-2010, reviews proposed and enacted voter ID legislation in 2011, including states that enacted new voter ID laws and states that modified their existing voter ID laws by requiring photo ID at the polls. Part III also reviews and analyzes various state voter ID laws in effect in 2012 as well as includes a discussion of recent cases decided post-Crawford related to photo ID laws. Part IV examines and discusses Tennessee’s new strict photo ID law that requires all Tennessee voters to show a government-issued photo ID to vote at the polls, which law went into effect on January 1, 2012. Part IV also summarizes arguments made for and against passage of Tennessee’s new law and compares Tennessee’s new strict photo ID law with other state voter ID laws passed post-Crawford. In addition, Part IV discusses alternative methods to prevent voter fraud, besides strict photo ID laws, that have been implemented in various states that do not have voter ID laws or that do not require a photo ID to vote. This article concludes that recent changes to state voter ID laws are permissible, but strict photo ID laws are not really necessary to prevent voter fraud and to protect the electoral process. It also concludes that Tennessee did not have to pass a strict photo ID law in order to prevent voter fraud when less restrictive alternative methods could have been utilized when Tennessee enacted its more stringent photo ID law in 2011.

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