Voter ID in the 2012 General Election

One of the most debated issues before Election Day (until lines at the polls grabbed the spotlight) was the requirement that voters present photo identification at polling places.

Respondents to the 2012 Survey of the Performance of American Elections supported photo ID requirements at the polls, a finding consistent with other polling data. Nationwide, 71 percent were in favor of strict laws that compel all people to show a government-issued photo ID when voting.

There was a good deal of inconsistency, however, in how states implemented their voter ID requirements on Election Day. The survey, conducted by Charles Stewart III, Kenan Sahin distinguished professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts, reveals:

  • In states that require only first-time voters to show a nonphoto ID, 11 percent of all in-person voters were asked for photo identification.
  • In the 19 states with laws requiring all voters to show some form of ID, but do not specifically require a photo ID, 29 percent of in-person voters were asked for photo identification.
  • Twenty-six percent of white voters were asked to provide photo ID, compared with 33 percent of black voters and 30 percent of Hispanic voters.