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A poll worker in Wayne County wears PPE during Michigan Primary voting (Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press) A poll worker in Wayne County wears PPE during Michigan Primary voting (Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press)

A poll worker in Wayne County wears PPE during Michigan Primary voting (Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press)

Clara Hendrickson
By Clara Hendrickson August 4, 2020

If Your Time is short

  • Michigan voters can either show an acceptable form of photo identification or sign an affidavit before casting their vote.
  • While some worry not requiring voters to show a photo ID threatens the security of Michigan's election, there is scant evidence of widespread voter fraud.

As Michigan voters head to the polls today to vote in the state's primary election, some are wondering whether they need to bring an ID with them to cast a ballot.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 36 states in the U.S. have laws requiring or requesting voters to present some form of identification before they head to the voting booth. Michigan is among them.

But unlike states that have strict photo ID requirements, Michigan voters do not need a photo ID to cast a ballot. Instead, voters in Michigan can sign an affidavit at their polling location before casting their vote.

What are the acceptable forms of photo identification?

Michigan voters can present any of the following types of photo ID at their polling location:

  • Michigan driver's license or state-issued ID card
  • Driver's license or personal identification card issued by another state
  • Federal or state government-issued photo identification
  • U.S. passport
  • Military ID with photo
  • Student identification with photo from a high school or accredited institution of higher learning
  • Tribal identification card with photo

The photo ID does not need to have the voter's address on it, and it can contain a shorter version of the voter's name.

What should voters do if they don't have a photo ID or left it at home?

Voters who do not have any of the forms of identification listed above or forgot to bring a photo ID with them to the polls can sign an affidavit attesting they are not in possession of a photo ID. After signing the affidavit, voters can cast a ballot. 

By not requiring a photo ID to vote, are Michigan's elections susceptible to voter fraud?

There is scant evidence of voter fraud in the U.S. Michigan is no exception. "I have been an election official for 15 years and I've only had to file two police reports," Tina Barton, the election clerk for Rochester Hills, said in an interview with WKAR yesterday.

While proponents of voter ID laws argue that requiring voters to present identification before casting a ballot safeguards elections from voter fraud, research shows that voter fraud is not widespread.

A study conducted by Loyola Law School investigated instances of fraud in general, primary, special and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014. The study found only 31 incidents of voter fraud among over 1 billion ballots cast in these elections. Instances of in-person voter impersonation, the target of strict voter ID laws, is particularly rare. A study from News21, a national investigative reporting project funded by the Carnegie Corporation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, looked at a database of more than 2,000 instance of election-fraud cases between 2000 and 2012 and found only 10 cases of in-person voter impersonation.

As such, some argue voter ID laws are a solution in search of a problem. In fact, opponents contend voter ID laws are a form of voter suppression because they create barriers to voting for those who lack acceptable forms of identification.

A 2006 survey commissioned by the Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan law and policy organization, found that more than 20 million voting-age citizens did not possess a government-issued photo ID. Citizens earning less than $35,000 a year, seniors, and Black Americans were less likely to possess a government-issued photo ID, according to the survey.

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Michigan voters don't need to show ID at the polls to cast their ballots