Do You Need an ID? (Most restrictive)

Possibly. On Aug. 5, 2015, a three-judge appeals panel ruled that Texas's voter ID law discriminated against blacks and Latinos in violation of the Voting Rights Act It did not, however, determine that the lawmakers had acted with discriminatory intent in enacting the law. The district court must now determine how to alter the law to adjust to the ruling. The state also has the option to appeal the decision. The law required that voters show one of seven forms of valid state or federal photo ID. If the name on the ID doesn't match exactly but is "substantially similar," the voter must first sign an affidavit swearing to his identity before being allowed to cast a ballot. Texas's 2012 voter ID law, which acccepted only one of a few forms of photo ID, was blocked by the Justice Department and a federal court declared it discriminatory. After the Shelby decision, Texas's attorney general declared the law would take effect "immediately." On Oct. 9, 2014, a federal court struck down the law, ruling that it violates the Voting Rights Act and is unconstitutional because it places an undue, discriminatory burden on low-income African-American and Latino voters. Texas immediately appealed, and on Oct. 14, the Fifth Circuit court issued a stay on the ruling, allowing the law to proceed. The court said that while some voters "may be harmed," it was more important to maintain continuity so close to an election. On Oct. 18, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld that decision, allowing the law to take effect for the November 2014 election.

Without ID, a voter may cast a provisional ballot, which will be counted if he returns within six days, either to show an ID or to sign an affidavit attesting to a religious objection to being photographed or that he was unable to procure an ID due to a natural disaster.

Do You Need an Excuse to Vote Absentee? (Restrictive)

Voters must provide an excuse to mail in an absentee ballot.

What if You Have a Felony Conviction? (Restrictive)

Felons are prohibited from voting while in prison, on parole and probation. In 2011, the law was amended to clarify that people cannot be considered convicted unless the court has issued an adjudication of guilt.

Can You Vote In Person Before Election Day? (Less restrictive)

Voters may go to the polls beginning 17 days before an election until four days before Election Day.



Absentee Voting Gets Easier

Nearly 17 percent of the U.S. electorate voted by mail in 2012

Voting Early More Often

36 states allow people to vote in person before Election Day

Who Loses the Right to Vote

All but two states have laws that keep felons from voting

Voter ID Laws Gain Momentum

But many are also being challenged in court

Recent Stories

Introducing “Ballot Watch”

Who's allowed to vote? And when? As the November midterms approach, find out how voting laws are changing state-by-state in our interactive database.

Where is Voter Discrimination the Worst?

Voting discrimination persists nationwide, but the worst offenders today are still southern states with a history of blocking minorities' access to the ballot, according to a new study by the National Commission on Voting Rights.

New Voter ID Laws Hit Setbacks

Courts are pushing back against laws in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision. Several legal battles are still ahead.