Identification Needed at the Polls?

October 24, 2012

Having the right to vote is cherished by all Americans because it means we have the opportunity to choose the elected officials who represent us on local, state and national levels. This year, voters will be heading to the polls on Tuesday, November 6th to vote for presidential, congressional, senate, state senate and state representative candidates. In recent months, many constituents have asked me about several issues surrounding the process of voting. In this week’s column, I would like to share some information about registering to vote and whether you need to show identification before entering the voting booth.

Driving around the state, you have likely seen the billboards featuring the Secretary of the State reminding everyone to vote. If you are interested in registering to vote, there are two deadlines coming up that you should keep in mind. October 23rd was the deadline to register by mail and October 30th is the deadline to register in person at your local town hall. Currently, there are 2,026,137 registered voters in the state of Connecticut.

According to the Connecticut General Statutes, there are different requirements for registering in person, registering by mail and for voting on Election Day. To register in person, you will need to bring one of the following: birth certificate, driver’s license or Social Security card. If these forms of identification are not presented, the town official shall “require the applicant to prove his identity, place of birth, age and bona fide residence by the testimony under oath of at least one elector or by the presentation of proof satisfactory to such admitting official.” This means that there are exceptions allowed for those who do not have these forms of identification.

Registering by mail is a little more complicated, requiring an applicant to provide a copy of a current and valid photo identification, a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or government document that shows the voter’s name and address, a valid Connecticut motor vehicle operator’s license number or the last four digits of the individual’s Social Security number. Additional steps are also required, but the deadline for registering to vote by mail passed this week.

At the polling location, voters have one of two options before casting their ballot. First, Connecticut law states that voters shall “present to the official checkers the elector’s Social Security card or any other preprinted form of identification which shows the elector’s name and either the elector’s address, signature or photograph.” For many of us, our driver’s license is sufficient proof to help poll workers check our name off the list and help ensure that our vote is ultimately counted.

However, if a voter does not have identification, they may “on a form prescribed by the Secretary of the State, write the elector’s residential address and date of birth, print the elector’s name and sign a statement under penalty of false statement that the elector is the elector whose name appears on the official checklist.” This exception is for those who may not have identification, and the penalty for voter fraud can lead to imprisonment for up to one year or a fine of up to $2,000 or both.

With this information in mind, I encourage you to practice our most important of rights: voting for our elected officials. Some states require photo identification, but Connecticut does not. It may be easier and more secure to vote with a driver’s license, but there are exceptions for those who do not have identification and the penalties for voter fraud are steep. I hope that this week’s column was helpful in settling some of the uncertainty surrounding identification and our voting rights.