Can I Vote if I Don't Have an ID?

Lauren Kunis

Lauren Kunis

What if you show up on Election Day and don’t have the ID required for voting with you? Lauren Kunis explains how to overcome this barrier for voters who need ID assistance.

What to do if you do not have the ID required to vote

With some states implementing stricter voter identification laws in recent years, voters may wonder if they have the ID required to cast their ballots. Can you vote if you don’t have identification with you at the polls? Yes, you may be eligible to vote, though in many states you’ll need to take additional steps for your vote to count.

Meet Lauren Kunis - CEO and Executive Director of VoteRiders

Lauren Kunis joins U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) to discuss the conditions set by different states that kick in when voters do not bring a state-mandated ID with them on Election Day. VoteRiders is the foremost non-partisan organization in the U.S. that specializes in educating about and assisting with acquiring required ID for voting purposes. Lauren Kunis will share her expertise with voter identification laws, and explain how VoteRiders helps voters navigate ID requirements. 


Lauren, what happens if a voter shows up at the polls without an acceptable voter ID? While each state is different, could you explain the most common scenarios voters encounter?

Lauren Kunis

Thanks for the great question and for the opportunity to share more about voter ID laws! 

You’re absolutely right that the rules are different for each state. The best way to be prepared on the voter ID front is to check out our state-by-state map to learn what your state requires or requests (or doesn’t!) for voting. It’s also worth noting that voter ID requirements are oftentimes different for in-person and mail-in voting. 

In 12 states and the District of Columbia, there is no voter ID law at present. This means that the vast majority of voters will not need to present identification to cast a ballot in those jurisdictions. Only some first-time voters in federal elections will need to do so. 

The other 38 states DO have a voter ID law in place. This means that to cast a regular ballot, voters are required or requested, depending on the state, to present specific forms of identification. Some states require a photo ID, whereas others give voters options for non-photo IDs such as a utility bill or bank statement. It’s also worth noting that whether and to what extent an ID must be “non-expired” is also state-dependent.

In states with strict voter ID laws, if you’re unable to present an acceptable ID at the polls, you may cast a provisional ballot – but you’ll have to take additional steps for it to count, such as presenting acceptable ID to your local election office within a certain number of days after the election. Check out your state’s page for more information. 

In states with non-strict voter ID laws, if you don’t provide acceptable ID when voting in person at the polls, there are still other ways to cast a ballot that counts, such as signing an affidavit or via a signature match process. Again, learn more about what options are available to you in your state by visiting our website.

It can seem like a confusing and complicated process, but VoteRiders is here to help! 


What are the main reasons states have created these procedures and have established increasingly stringent voter ID laws?

Lauren Kunis

Proponents of voter ID laws argue that they prevent in-person fraud at the polls. However, it’s important to note that this type of fraud, and really ALL types of election fraud, are astonishingly rare. 

For this reason, others argue that voter ID laws are “solutions in search of a problem,” noting that they do not meaningfully address any existing challenges to our electoral processes, while making it harder for eligible voters to cast a ballot and exercise their right to vote. 

In the wake of misleading narratives about election integrity, especially following the 2020 election, lawmakers in certain states have passed new or stricter ID laws at a truly unprecedented pace. This trend has continued right up to the present day. For a rundown, visit our blog posting recapping 2023 when it comes to voter ID.


How have Americans been affected by voter ID laws? 

Lauren Kunis

The impact of voter ID laws on Americans simply cannot be overstated! It’s a little-known fact that an estimated 11% of voting-age Americans, or over 25 million citizens by current census figures, lack current (unexpired), government-issued photo ID. 

As states pass new or stricter voter ID laws, more and more citizens will have a harder time casting a ballot as a result. Already this year, five states have passed new or stricter ID measures, and these laws are not showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon. 

Voter ID laws also have an unequal impact on certain already-underrepresented communities, such as voters of color, youth and student voters, low-income individuals, older adults who no longer drive, people with disabilities, married women who change their name, and more. You can learn more about the specific impact of voter ID laws on different communities on our website. 

In addition to directly disenfranchising eligible voters, misconceptions about voter ID laws also cause widespread confusion across the country, even in states that don’t have voter ID laws in place. Even poll workers sometimes aren’t up to speed on ID laws and can misapply them, leading to voter confusion and intimidation. 

All this to say: the best way you can ensure that you and your community are NOT among the millions of Americans affected by voter ID laws is to be a prepared and informed voter. Make sure to check your state’s ID rules on our website, or call/text our free Voter ID Helpline (866.ID.2.VOTE) well ahead of elections.


What do you do at VoteRiders to respond to these election laws and their impact on voters?

Lauren Kunis

At VoteRiders, we’re focused year-round on helping voters understand voter ID laws in their states, and supporting them to obtain the ID they need to cast a ballot that counts. 

On the voter education front, in the past decade we have worked with 1,450+ diverse partner organizations to get the word out about voter ID laws. We offer comprehensive and constantly-updated digital resources via a state map on our website and a social media toolkit

We also get the word out about voter ID requirements in every state and D.C. via wallet-sized and bilingual Voter ID Information Cards that we print and ship for free in unlimited quantities to nonpartisan partners. We shipped over 1,000,000 of these cards to partners during the 2022 election cycle, and they’re available digitally as well. 

We organize large-scale outreach events with our ever-growing community of 10,000+ volunteers, such as text-banking, letter-writing, and phone-banking to make sure voters in voter ID states are aware of their state’s rules and to offer our help. We have a Voter ID Helpline (866.ID.2.VOTE) and a Chatbot on our website to answer voter questions on all things ID. 

Last but certainly not least, our staff and trained volunteers across the country provide eligible voters with free start-to-finish help to get the ID they need to vote. We offer this help in person in places like job fairs, food banks and shelters, as well as virtually. We make all logistical arrangements, arrange for transportation to and from ID-issuing offices, help secure underlying documents like a birth certificate or Social Security card, and pay for all costs along the way. 

We’re always looking for partners in this work and for volunteers to help power and expand our impact. Please feel free to reach out and join our VoteRiders community! 


We here at US Vote are proud partners of VoteRiders and encourage voters to seek you out!

Could you share some examples of actual voters who have been helped by VoteRiders? What concerns did these voters have and how did you help them?

Lauren Kunis

Absolutely! Collecting and amplifying the stories of the voters we help is an important part of our work. You can check them out on our site here or follow us on social media at @VoteRiders on all platforms. 

Voters lack the type of state-issued ID that is increasingly required in many states for voting for lots of different reasons. Here are just a few: their ID expired or is from another state, they attend college or university out of state, their documents were stolen or destroyed, they lack the means to pay for one, they have recently changed their names, they’re recently re-entering society after incarceration, and more. 

From a disabled couple in Arizona to a woman displaced by Hurricane Ian in Florida to an unemployed man in Georgia and beyond, we work with citizens every single day who have trouble getting the ID they need and depend on us for help. 

For many of the people we assist, the ID we help them obtain unlocks life-changing new opportunities related to housing, healthcare, employment, and more. At the same time, importantly, it helps them become a voter. With their new ID in hand, they can have a voice at the ballot box on the issues that affect their daily lives and communities.


What is the most important message you would want to share with Americans about voter identification?

Lauren Kunis

New voter ID laws, most of them more restrictive, are passing at an unprecedented pace across the country. They place very real barriers in front of millions of Americans, but these barriers are not insurmountable! 

Make sure that voter ID is part of your plan to vote. 

Get prepared early if you don’t have what you need. It can take weeks or months to obtain a government-issued photo ID, let alone the documents required to get your ID. 

And if you don’t have what you need, or if you’re not sure, get in touch with us at VoteRiders so we can help you every step of the way. And spread the word! 

Everyone should be able to make their voices heard at the ballot box. Don’t let voter ID laws stand in the way of your ability to exercise your right to vote. 

US Vote can be of service to voters who are unsure whether they have the ID that their state requires to vote. It’s a good idea to confirm requirements, since several states passed new laws in recent years and the rules may have changed since the last time you voted. If you want to check whether your voter ID meets your state's requirements, it takes just a moment to look over US Vote’s list of current ID options. If you still have questions, you can ask your local election official, or reach out to US Vote’s Voter Help Desk to get personalized assistance from our experts. If you need help actually acquiring voter ID, we recommend our friends at VoteRiders as your go-to, trustworthy resource.