Dear PoPville – What are Voter Identification Requirements?

Photo of Nuns voting by PoPville flickr user ekelly80

Dear PoPville,

Yesterday, after waiting in line nearly three hours at Van Ness Elementary in SE DC, the young woman in front of me was turned away for not having proper ID. Apparently she brought her passport and that was deemed insufficient.

Do you or your readers know if this is consistent with DC law? I felt sorry for her being turned away after waiting in line for nearly three hours.

DC Board of Elections and Ethics says:

Registered voters do not need to present proof of residence to vote, however some polling places require ID to enter the facility. It is therefore encouraged that you take some form of identification with you to vote.

If you will be registering during the early voting period or at the polls on Election Day, you will need to provide proof of residence in order to register and vote a special ballot. If you are a first-time voter who registered by mail and did not provide proof of residence when registering, you will need to show proof of residence in order to cast a regular ballot.

Acceptable forms of proof of residence include the following (must include the name and address of the voter):

Copy of current and valid photo identification
Copy of a current utility bill (does not include cell phone)
Bank statement
Government check
Or other government document that shows your name and address

21 Comment

  • A passport does not establish DC residency. Thus it is not acceptable identification to vote a special ballot.

    There is not need to show ID if you are voting at the neighborhood polling place you are registered to vote in.

  • +1 A passport proves you are a citizen, it has no information that proves you reside in specific city or state.

  • I was helping my girlfriend figure out what identification she needed in Virginia, and apparently a passport is acceptable there. I thought that was strange since it doesn’t have an address on it. I guess DC wants to see your address somewhere, which makes sense.

  • There are pieces of information missing from this post that would help clarify it. If she was registering to vote at the polls on election day, or she was a first time voter who registered to vote by mail, then no, her passport would not work.

    However, we don’t know that (from this post) and the DCBOE volunteer poll worker could have just simply asked incorrectly for this person’s ID. It’s happened to me three out of the last four elections.

    Also, in most voter ID states, a U.S. passport does in fact count as proof as identity (again, unless you are a first time voter who registered to vote by mail in which case you have show photo/address ID and that’s actually a federal minimum requirement).

    • Correct, it proves your identity. However, if you are not otherwise registered to vote at a specific address, it does not prove you are a resident of the area you are voting in.

      A minimal amount of thought will lead you to the reason this matters – namely, that one could drive around and show up to random polling places with one’s passport, claim to live there, and vote repeatedly.

      • It seems to me that Ward One resident put in all of the thought required and you decided to be snarky instead of reading what was written. It sounds like the two of you are in complete agreement. He stated that a passport would not be sufficient if the voter wasn’t already registered or if she was a first time voter needing to prove residency, but would be otherwise. We don’t have all of the information regarding this voter’s situation, so we don’t know if that was the case or not.

  • Somebody seriously needs to rethink choice of polling places if people are actually having to go through metal detectors and ID checks and other security theater at some places. (I didn’t, but I heard stories from others.) At the very least, that kind of thing just doesn’t look right.

    • By ID checks I mean the security ones mentioned in the article (“some polling places require ID to enter the facility”), not the special ballot proof of address thing.

    • Agreed. If you aren’t a voter ID “state” you should never have to show ID to enter a polling place. Just chalk that up to one of the many, many, many things that DCBOE just doesn’t do right/well.

  • I actually didn’t have to show any ID to vote. I just told the woman my name and address.

  • In every previous election (in the same polling place I’ve been voting at for 13 years), they’ve simply asked for my name and to state my address, which they confirmed against the voter rolls.

    But yesterday, even after finding my name in the book, the poll worker asked to see my voter card, which I didn’t have. It had never been an issue before so I forgot to bring it. It was a crowded polling place with a long line of antsy people behind me, so rather than making a stink, I offered my drivers license as ID because she was clearly not going to let me vote without showing her something.

    I was going to send a note to DCBOEE Director noting this shouldn’t be happening, it seems like a simple issue of proper training.

    • Grrr…so frustrating. If that ever happens again, ask for the precinct captain. They are the “boss” of the polling place and they should put a stop to that foolishness immediately. It also still wouldn’t hurt to send a message to Cliff Tatum, the BOE director and explain the situation.

      • Have you seen some precinct captains? The one at my polling place was worthless, sitting on a chair in the corner giggling and passing out “I voted” stickers while all manner of problems were occurring.

      • Thanks for the info, I will definitely report it to BOE. I saw who I assume was the precinct captain but she was swamped with onsite registrations and special ballot and doing her best to tame the general chaos – the room was very small for the number of people in there. She was being harangued by a lot of people and I didn’t want to add to her stress.

  • The person I talked to just wanted something with my name on it – and I only think she wanted it because it was difficult to hear and she was worried about spelling and such (i.e. making sure sure she had the right person).

  • If you are registered to vote and live at the same address, you are not required to show identification to vote in DC. Period. To ask for it is illegal and should be reported. This is a form of discrimination that has been overturned by the courts in numerous states and it should not be happening in DC.

  • PLEASE report voting irregularities to DCBOE. Be as specific as possible. I am a check in clerk and we did training and took a test. I am not certain that everyone who “passed” the test was capable of doing the job, as was the case where I worked. And please consider volunteering at the next election. More volunteers would help the situation immensely.
    Regarding the OP, and some of the answers, there are several categories that require an ID, and those are clearly marked in the polling book. If check in clerks were asking for ID, and it was not for the reason in the book, then they were in the wrong. The check in clerk is required to ask the person to state his/her full name and full address.
    Voting is a privilege and an obligation of citizenship. We need to do better.

    • What happened to all the sweet old retired ladies who used to work the polls? In the past few years the poll worker are younger and some are kind of rude. And semi-literate – I basically had to turn the pages of the book myself to find my name, because the poll worker seriously didn’t appear to know the order of letters in the alphabet.

      The woman running the electronic voting machine was great though – cheerful and efficient in explaining everything.

  • I was a first time DC voter who registered by mail and didn’t have to show anything, just said my name (several times) as the pollworker slowly found it, and asked if that was me.

  • when I voted they could not find me in the check in book even though I had my card mailed to me by the board of elections. They sent me to another desk where she found me right away in the computer. I was then allowed to cast a provisional ballot. I’m sure it was just a computer glitch but it was just an unsatisfying feeling and I left feeling like my vote didn’t really count. I suppose I can follow up with them to make sure my provisional ballot was allowed. Just felt like I had to prove myself after I had already done so when I first registered.

  • Former DC poll worker and Area Rep. No requirement for ID to enter school buildings on election day – almost all have separate entrances to gyms, multi-purpose rooms, etc. My friend was asked for ID at Marie Reed and refused to show it. Poll workers are either seeing crap on TV that confuses them, are inventing a law that doesn’t exist or something else. No photo ID is required for any voting transaction. A provisional vote would be issued to ANYONE, though they might be required to establish residency after the fact if evidence was lacking.

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