This is one in a series of fact checks the Detroit Free Press is doing on public issues in conjunction with PolitiFact, a nonprofit national news organization. Suggest a fact-check here.
As Michigan voters head to the polls Tuesday to vote in the state’s primary election, some are wondering whether they need to bring an ID with them to cast a ballot.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 36 states in the U.S. have laws requiring or requesting voters to present some form of identification before they head to the voting booth. Michigan is among them.
But unlike states that have strict photo ID requirements, Michigan voters do not need a photo ID to cast a ballot. Instead, voters in Michigan can sign an affidavit at their polling location before casting their vote.
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Michigan voters can present any of the following types of photo ID at their polling location:
The photo ID does not need to have the voter’s address on it, and it can contain a shorter version of the voter’s name.
Voters who do not have any of the forms of identification listed above or forgot to bring a photo ID with them to the polls can sign an affidavit attesting they are not in possession of a photo ID. After signing the affidavit, voters can cast a ballot.
There is scant evidence of voter fraud in the United States. Michigan is no exception. “I have been an election official for 15 years and I’ve only had to file two police reports,” Tina Barton, the election clerk for Rochester Hills, said in an interview with WKAR Monday.
While proponents of voter ID laws argue that requiring voters to present identification before casting a ballot safeguards elections from voter fraud, research shows that voter fraud is not widespread.
A study conducted by Loyola Law School investigated instances of fraud in general, primary, special and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014. The study found only 31 incidents of voter fraud among more than 1 billion ballots cast in these elections. Instances of in-person voter impersonation, the target of strict voter ID laws, is particularly rare. A study from News21, a national investigative reporting project funded by the Carnegie Corporation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, looked at a database of more than 2,000 election-fraud cases between 2000 and 2012 and found only 10 cases of in-person voter impersonation.
As such, some argue voter ID laws are a solution in search of a problem. In fact, opponents contend voter ID laws are a form of voter suppression because they create barriers to voting for those who lack acceptable forms of identification.
A 2006 survey commissioned by the Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan law and policy organization, found that more than 20 million voting-age citizens did not possess a government-issued photo ID. Citizens earning less than $35,000 a year, seniors, and Black Americans were less likely to possess a government-issued photo ID, according to the survey.