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EAC to Launch Comprehensive Study of Voter ID Laws

Posted on March 30, 2007

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has voted unanimously to launch a comprehensive study focused on voter identification laws after concluding that initial research it received in a report, which focused on only one election cycle, was not sufficient to draw any conclusions. The Commission declined to adopt the report, but is releasing all of the data to the public.

The report and the research, conducted by Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, through its Eagleton Institute of Politics, are available at Voter ID Research & Report. The Commission’s statement regarding its decision is attached.

“After careful consideration of the initial research, the Commission decided this important issue deserves a more in-depth research approach, and that it should be examined beyond only one election cycle,” said EAC Chair Donetta Davidson. “The Commission and our contractor agree that the research conducted for EAC raises more questions than provides answers.”

EAC’s strategy for moving forward is based upon an examination of the initial research and the testimony and discussion about this research project at the Commission’s February 8, 2007 public meeting. For more information about the public meeting, including the agenda, transcript, and testimony click here.

EAC’s future research on this topic will be expanded to include more than one federal election, environmental and political factors, and the numerous changes in state laws and regulations related to voter identification requirements that have occurred since 2004. EAC’s comprehensive research approach will undertake the following activities:

Conduct an ongoing state-by-state review, reporting and tracking of voter identification requirements.

Establish a baseline of information that will include factors that may affect or influence Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP) voter participation. EAC will use some of the information collected by the contractor as well as additional data from the states to develop this baseline.

In 2007, convene a working group of advocates, academics, research methodologists and election officials to discuss EAC’s next study of voter identification.

Study how voter identification provisions that have been in place for two or more federal elections have impacted voter turnout, voter registration figures, and fraud.

Publish a series of best practice case studies which detail a particular state’s or jurisdiction’s experiences with educating poll workers and voters about various voter identification requirements.

EAC is an independent bipartisan commission created by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). It is charged with administering payments to states and developing guidance to meet HAVA requirements, implementing election administration improvements, adopting voluntary voting system guidelines, accrediting voting system test laboratories and certifying voting equipment and serving as a national clearinghouse and resource of information regarding election administration. The four EAC commissioners are Donetta Davidson, chair; Rosemary Rodriguez, Caroline Hunter and Gracia Hillman.

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EAC Statement on Study of Voter Identification Requirements

Background

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) authorizes the United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to conduct periodic studies of election administration issues. In May 2005, EAC contracted with Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey through its Eagleton Institute of Politics (“Contractor”) to perform a review and legal analysis of state legislation, administrative procedures and court cases, and to perform a literature review on other research and data available on the topic of voter identification requirements. Further, the Contractor was asked to analyze the problems and challenges of voter identification, to hypothesize alternative approaches and to recommend various policies that could be applied to these approaches.

The Contractor performed a statistical analysis of the relationship of various requirements for voter identification to voter turnout in the 2004 election. Drawing on its nationwide review and legal analysis of state statutes and regulations for voter identification, the contractor compared states with similar voter identification requirements and drew conclusions based on comparing turnout rates among states for one election – November 2004. For example, the turnout rate in 2004 in states that required the voter to provide a photo identification document1 was compared to the turnout rate in 2004 in states with a requirement that voters give his or her name in order to receive a ballot. Contractor used two sets of data to estimate turnout rates: 1) voting age population estimates2 and 2) individual-level survey data from the November 2004 Current Population Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.3

The Contractor presented testimony summarizing its findings from this statistical and data analysis at the February 8, 2007 public meeting of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The Contractor’s testimony, its summary of voter identification requirements by State, its summary of court decisions and literature on voter identification and related issues, an annotated bibliography on voter identification issues and its summary of state statutes and regulations affecting voter identification are attached to this report and can also be found on EAC’s website, www.eac.gov.

EAC Declines to Adopt Draft Report

EAC finds the Contractor’s summary of States’ voter identification requirements and its summary of state laws, statutes, regulations and litigation surrounding the implementation of voter identification requirements, to be a first step in the Commission’s efforts to study the possible impact of voter identification requirements.

However, EAC has concerns regarding the data, analysis, and statistical methodology the Contractor used to analyze voter identification requirements to determine if these laws have an impact on turnout rates. The study only focused on one federal election. An analysis using averaged county-level turnout data from the U.S. Census showed no statistically significant correlations. A second analysis using a data set based upon the Current Population Survey (which was self-reported and showed a significantly higher turnout rate than other conventional data) was conducted that produced some evidence of correlation between voter identification requirements and turnout. The initial categorization of voter identification requirements included classifications that, actually, require no identification documentation, such as “state your name.” The research methodology and the statistical analysis used by the Contractor were questioned by an EAC review group comprised of social scientists and statisticians. The Contractor and the EAC agree that the report raises more questions than provides answers and both agree the study should have covered more than one federal election.4 Thus, EAC will not adopt the Contractor’s study and will not issue an EAC report based upon this study. All of the material provided by the Contractor is attached.

Further EAC Study on Voter Identification Requirements

EAC will engage in a longer-term, more systematic review of voter identification requirements. Additional study on the topic will include more than one Federal election cycle, additional environmental and political factors that effect voter participation and the numerous changes in state laws and regulations related to voter identification requirements that have occurred since 2004.

EAC will undertake the following activities:

Conduct an ongoing state-by-state review, reporting and tracking of voter identification requirements. This will include tracking states’ requirements which require a voter to state his or her name, to sign his or her name, to match his or her signature to a signature on file, to provide photo or non-photo identification or to swear an affidavit affirming his or her identify.


Establish a baseline of information that will include factors that may affect or influence Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP) voter participation, including various voter identification requirements, the competitiveness of a race and certain environmental or political factors. EAC will use some of the information collected by Eagleton as well as additional data from the states to develop this baseline.


In 2007, convene a working group of advocates, academics, research methodologists and election officials to discuss EAC’s next study of voter identification. Topics to be discussed include methodology, specific issues to be covered in the study and timelines for completing an EAC study on voter identification.


Study how voter identification provisions that have been in place for two or more Federal elections have impacted voter turnout, voter registration figures, and fraud. Included in this study will be an examination of the relationship between voter turnout and other factors such as race and gender. Study the effects of voter identification provisions, or the lack thereof, on early, absentee and vote-by-mail voting.


Publish a series of best practice case studies which detail a particular state’s or jurisdiction’s experiences with educating poll workers and voters about various voter identification requirements. Included in the case studies will be detail on the policies and practices used to educate and inform poll workers and voters.



1In 2004, three of the states that authorized election officials to request photo identification allowed voters to provide a non-photo ID and still vote a regular ballot and two others permitted voters who lacked photo ID to vote a regular ballot by swearing and affidavit.

2The July 2004 estimates for voting age population were provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. These data did not differentiate between citizens and non-citizens; because these numbers include non-citizens, the Contractor applied the percentage of citizens included in voting age population statistics in 2000 to the U.S. Census Bureau estimated voting age population in 2004. Thus, 2004 estimates of voting age population include persons who are not registered to vote.

3The Current Population Survey is based on reports from self-described registered voters who also describe themselves as U.S. citizens.

4See Transcript of EAC Public Meeting, February 8, 2007, page 109.