Even in those states, confusion engendered by the laws lingers, sometimes deterring voting more effectively than the laws themselves. Some voters don’t realize that registration and polling-place ID requirements are two different things, so that even if they are registered, they still may be prevented from voting. Many possess the necessary documents but think they don’t. Others fear the intimidation they may face at their voting precinct, the humiliation they’ll feel if they’re turned away, or the hassle of enduring a drawn-out, possibly unpleasant procedure.
“There is massive confusion nationwide, on the part of voters and poll workers alike, about voter ID laws even where there is no state voter ID law,” Kathleen Unger, president of VoteRiders, a nonpartisan nonprofit group based in Santa Monica, Calif., that disseminates accurate voting information to potential voters nationwide, told me. That may explain why during a recent election Myrna Pérez, who directs the Brennan Center for Justice’s voting rights and elections project, was herself told by a poll official at her New Jersey precinct that she needed a photo ID, even though the state lacks a photo ID law.