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Beyond 2012: Are voter ID laws here to stay?

Suevon Lee | 12/27/2012, 11:20 a.m.

Voter ID laws were one of the most contentious issues of the past election season. Proponents insisted IDs should be required at polling places in order to thwart fraud. But there has been little evidence of such fraud and Democrats argued that the laws were meant to suppress voters.

The impact of the laws on this past election isn’t clear. But one thing is clear: There are still pushes for the laws in many states.

So what happens next?

We’ve rounded up the places that could see voter ID in future elections, the status of laws still pending and what effect, if any, this year’s pushback against voter ID will have going forward.

Just to refresh, which states actually have photo ID laws?

Four states require voters to present a valid form of photo identification in order to cast a regular, not provisional, ballot: Indiana, Georgia, Kansas, and Tennessee. The latter two phased in the law just this year; Indiana has had it since 2006 and Georgia since 2008.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania, battleground for one of the fieriest disputes over the issue this year, required poll workers to request ID from voters — though voters had no obligation to present one.

And New Hampshire permitted voters without photo ID to still cast a regular ballot, as long as they signed a form affirming they were who they said they were.

So, there weren’t actually many places in the country where photo IDs were required to vote?

Correct. Due largely to court rulings and robust opposition from the Justice Department, newly passed voter ID laws didn’t play nearly as big a role in the election this year as they otherwise might have. (In Minnesota, a ballot proposing voter ID was defeated after failing to get majority support.)

Could that change next year?

Yes. South Carolina and Pennsylvania have both passed voter ID laws. Judges suspended them for the past election, ruling there was too little time to implement the new law without the risk of disenfranchising voters. But the laws will be in effect next time around.

Pennsylvania’s voter ID law is set to take effect in time for the state’s May 2013 local primaries.

In other states, it isn’t so clear.

After its voter ID law was rejected by federal judges in August, Texas pledged to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. That appeal may have to wait, though, until the Court rules on the constitutional merits of a special provision of the Voting Rights Act next June.

Voter ID laws in Mississippi and Alabama are also on hold, awaiting federal review.

Where else have lawmakers expressed interest in voter ID laws?

In lots of states. A Montana state representative has proposed a bill that would restrict valid voter ID to Montana driver’s licenses, state ID cards for non-drivers and tribal ID cards. (Not even passports would qualify.)

Wisconsin’s incoming state assembly leader and Missouri Republicans want to push through voter ID laws via constitutional amendment. Iowa’s secretary of state, who’s been aggressive about targeting voter fraud, is also still pushing for an ID law.