In the United States, requiring voters to show photo-ID is very controversial. Many claim that it is discriminatory. In states where requiring photo ID is not allowed, how do election officials determine that a person is elligible to vote in that location, and how do they prevent people from voting multiple times?

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    The process varies by state and jurisdiction. In general if you know the name and address under which you are registered that will be enough to get you to the poll if you are in the right polling place. Which is why in Chicago you can hear things like "Wow Mr Garabini for a 110 year old you don't look a day over 30." Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 20:52
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    "Vote early and vote often" - Al Capone.
    – user4012
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 8:52
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    Relevant, though not an answer: virtually no cases of fraud could be prevented by voter ID laws: minnpost.com/politics-policy/2012/08/…
    – Publius
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 5:31
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    @Avi - But you could eliminate it as a reasonable doubt for officials accused of corruption at the polls. It is not always reducing an actual problem but sometimes about making it harder to do something unrelated. Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 16:20
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    @Chad voting laws exist to ensure fairness in election outcomes. If you pass a law restricting the ability of otherwise eligible voters to vote for no demonstrable benefit, that's a bad law.
    – Publius
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 18:54

3 Answers 3


This varies state by state - but I assume most states without Voter ID laws operate similarly. I will give an example of what I know, NJ.

The answer to "how do they prevent people from voting multiple times" is, "in some places, they don't really do it outside of making you sign a voting roll with the name you are using to vote".

E.g. all you need to have is some registered voter's name, easily obtainable via social engineering (find a person's contact info, contact them as if doing a poll, ask if they are registered to vote, ask if they are planning to vote. Things that legit polling firms ask).

Specifially, in New Jersey (src):

If identification was not provided at the time of registering to vote or if the identification information could not be verified, a voter must show identification at the polling place. Identification includes: any current and valid photo ID or bank statement, car registration, government check or document, etc.

So, there are 2 ways to cheat:

  1. Come to vote with fraudulent documents (scan, photoshop, and print a fake bank statement - NOT exactly an impossible task in modern day and age).

  2. Come to vote and pretend to be someone who is already registered to vote (as per above, a very easy feat via social engineering).

    As an addendum - when they make you sign in the voter book, you can see and remember any other people's names as they open up pages to find yours, never mind names on your own page. No need even for basic social engineering.

  3. UPDATED When voting by mail, the rules are:

    Do I need to provide ID when I register to vote?

    You must include your New Jersey driver's license number or your non-driver ID number on your voter registration form. If you don't have either of these numbers, you must include a copy of your ID with your form. If you forget, you'll need to provide ID the first time you vote in person or by absentee ballot. Acceptable forms of ID include: a driver's license or other photo identification that shows your name and New Jersey address OR a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows your name and New Jersey address.

    So, you CAN (1) Fail to provide driver's license # when registering and (2) Use an easily forgeable form of ID (a copy of the utility bill and/or bank statement with name and address whiteouted and changed) to then vote by mail without providing harder-to-forge drivers or non-drivers ID.

As far as #2, I have definitely observed that you merely state your name at the voting rolls table, without any effort to certify you are of that name - even checking your voting invitation letter, and sign the rolls to certify that you voted (so nobody else nor yourself can cast a second vote under that name).

However, if you know someone else's name who is already registered to vote, you can EASILY come and vote a second time as that person. The only four risks are:

  • the super-vigilant 70 year old volunteers supervising the rolls recognize you again.

    (not being sarcastic - anyone else ever have a hyper-vigilant nosy older neighbour? :)

    Can be trivially mitigated; from basic disguise to voting throughout the day to even simpler, voting in different polling places.

  • Same volunteers deciding your signature is "wrong"

    Trivially mitigated by using random-scribble signature method, OR "almost same as printed letters" signature method. May not stand later scrutiny if the vote is disputed, but are they ever?

  • The person you are impersonating coming to vote earlier and you being arrested for attempted voting fraud

    Can be mitigated by voting as someone you know hasn't voted yet (or coming to vote very early, as per Al Capone's famous admonition).

    Or, even better, someone who won't vote at all. Given typical US voting participation rate (shy of 60% even on high-turnout Presidential elections, never mind other lower turnout elections), finding such a person isn't hard.

  • The person you are impersonating coming to vote after you voted, and having your vote invalidated.

    Can be mitigated by voting as someone you know won't vote at all. As per above, given typical US voting participation rate (shy of 60% even on high-turnout Presidential elections, never mind other lower turnout elections), finding such a person isn't hard.

    However, given that voting is anonymous, I'm not even sure invalidating your prior vote would be technically possible, so this may not be as much of a concern.

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    Wow. So nobody can trust the US elections.
    – Anixx
    Commented Jul 13, 2013 at 11:05
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    @Anixx - Not in the states without voter ID laws.
    – user4012
    Commented Jul 13, 2013 at 16:25
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    Rejection of data based on your anecdotal experience does not constitute a valid argument. I recognize this isn't skeptics, but I'm hoping we have a higher standard of evidence here.
    – Publius
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 3:30
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    @Avi - My whole answer is the expert criticism of methodology. The statistics is of people who were caught and convited of fraud. I'm showing that given the laws that exist, it's trivial to commit fraud in a way that will NOT get you caught, never mind convicted. In other words, "he number of cases of fraud that could be prevented by these ID's" is "A COMPLETE UNKNOWN and not "zero" as you claimed; but is severely unlikely to be zero based on the ease of committing fraud without risk of being caught.
    – user4012
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 3:38
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    I didn't see you referencing any experts on the subject stating that such fraud is common. Considering that I did, I see no reason to think that there is a substantial amount of voter fraud. You're trying to reason your way to something that has to be established empirically.
    – Publius
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 6:21

In Massachusetts, you walk into the polling place and state a name and home address belonging to a registered voter. The poll worker looks at a list and sees if that name and address combination was already used. If not, they mark it as used, typically with a checkmark, then you go vote.

No ID of any form is requested or accepted at the polling location, nor is any other form of verification.


It’s simple enough.

The Human Element comes into play.

The Poll Volunteers generally have over 20 years of experience.

No Precinct is so large that they don’t know all the roads, streets, and addresses.

If you come in to vote for the first time, you’ll hear them chatter for a moment about EXACTLY where your address is.

Then you’ll need your Voter Registration Card.

Which you only get when you supply sufficient documentation, like a Driver’s license, BC, Social Security Card, utility bills with your name and address, Dog Tags, VA Card, etc.

AFTER that, they know you, greet you by name, and it’s all cool.

Anybody trying to impersonate you is going to get a rude shock when the 70 year old lady at the Ballot table squints and says “You aren’t John Smith, I went to High School with him !”.

The Human Element was how things were done before computers, and it’s a pretty good system with multiple redundancy.

Now, computers could be fooled before facial recognition, and let’s be honest, there’s no Facial Rec or Retinal Scan system in place yet.

I think this is why people mistakenly believe it is easy to get away with Voter Fraud.

They don’t realize that it’s the long-term volunteers that are the watchdogs.

Now, suppose somebody DID bus in migrants or vagrants.

Nobody knows them, so they have to go through the process.

If they claim to be “John Smith” and they’re not, they go to jail.

If they lie and claim they just moved to the Precinct, they’re going to need to Register.

Some States have same-day Registration but many don’t.

They’re going to need to show proof of their address; you have to live IN the Precinct to vote there.

The logjam that would be created by anybody attempting this on Election Day would shut down voting entirely, and it would attract suspicion.

You have to see the voting process as an assembly line. Any attempt to tamper with the process WILL get noticed as the line breaks down.

To ensure this doesn’t happen, we have Poll Watchers, from both major Parties.

And they can Challenge anybody they think doesn’t belong in the Precinct.

With the Poll Volunteers as the first line of defense, and the Poll Watchers as the second line of defense... anybody trying this would fall flat on their face.

James O’Keefe and his merry band of lying hoaxers tried to prove Voter Fraud was possible in the 2012 Republican Primary.

Seven of them took names from the Obits.

They went in claiming to be “John Smith” and tried to get Ballots.

Even in the lower-pressure environment of a Primary, two of them got caught and had to run before the cops got there.

Now, this is SIMPLE.

If 2 in 7 attempts at Fraud got caught, and you needed a million successful attempts to swing an Election, what will the Headlines in the newspaper be the following day?


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    I don't know whether to upvote this for good points, or downvote it for the formatting and lack of anything to support it. +0 for now.
    – Bobson
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 15:40
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    It is pretty rare to actually catch them though. The reason that a few get caught is because it is so easy to get away with a few get sloppy. There are districts where the population is very migrant. But the fraud is happening at a local scale to affect boards and regional positions more than national elections. Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 16:37
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    "you'll need your voter registration card" is simply the most easily disproven falsehood of the many in this answer
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 4:45

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