Things to know about identification before you go to the polls 

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Early voting is underway for this election cycle and already voters are flocking to the polls to cast their ballot. In the first few days of early voting at the Marion County Clerk’s office, officials are reporting increases in numbers over the last two presidential election years.
There are a few things that voters need to know when going to the polls. This knowledge could be the difference between your vote and voice truly being heard and a waste of time.


In 2005, Indiana Hoosiers were required to show a government-issued photo identification to cast their ballot. The legislation making the requirement was championed by then-Secretary of State Todd Rokita.

The rules for what that identification must show have been misunderstood over the last 11 years. NUVO hopes this will clear the air on what is and isn’t necessary.

First of all, your photo identification must have an expiration date and be either current or have expired after the date of the last general election. So, since the last general election in Indiana was last year on November 3, 2015, if your driver’s license, passport, or government-issued photo ID has expired anytime between November 4, 2015 and today, you can still use it when you go to the polls. Even if that ID expires on Election Day, November 8 of this year, that identification can still be used to vote using a regular ballot. (The difference between regular and provisional ballots is coming up, so keep reading.)

In addition to the expiration date, the other specific points of the ID law include name and photo. The law states that the ID must contain a photograph of the person to whom the ID was issued. The ID must also show the name of the person and that name must conform to the name on the voter registration record. So, if you have legally changed your name but haven’t updated your voter registration, don’t dispose of that old identification just yet. You will need it for Election Day.

Those are the only identification requirements for voting according to Indiana state law. Although the voter registration book contains your address, the address on your ID does not have to match the address on the book. Your legal physical residence must match what is on the voter registration book, but that doesn’t have to be the address on your license. So if a poll worker gives a voter a provisional ballot because your address is “wrong” according to the ID, that poll worker is in the wrong and your vote should be counted. (Passports do not include your address and are considered valid government-issued IDs with names, photos and expiration dates suitable to use for voting.)

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles will issue an ID card free of charge if you indicate that it is for the purpose of voting. However, all of the necessary paperwork will still be required to obtain that ID.

Indiana driver’s licenses and identification cards will be required to be Secure IDs by the year 2020. Indiana law changed to be in compliance with federal regulations. A secure identification system was one of many recommendations that came out of the 9/11 Commission that studied the events and processes leading up to the terrorist attacks. States were required to come up with a way to issue secure IDs to citizens. Indiana, like many states, increased the requirements for driver’s licenses and IDs.

Anyone applying for a new driver’s license or non-driving ID will automatically be issued a secure ID with the submission of the appropriate documents. Persons who already have valid driver’s licenses and IDs don’t have to secure that ID until 2020.
Beginning in 2020, secure IDs will be required to board commercial aircraft and enter federal buildings and military installations.

A Secure ID requires proof of identity, proof of residency and proof of a valid Social Security number. Required documents include birth certificates, social security cards and utility bills from current residences. Any legal name changes that differ from the name on your birth certificates must be documented as well. For women who have been married multiple times, documentation — such as marriage licenses, divorce decrees and other court-related documents — indicating all name changes should be submitted as well.


So now that you have your ID and you know how to use it, there are a variety of ways to cast your ballot.

With a valid ID and no major changes in life, you can cast a regular ballot on Election Day, through early voting at the county clerk’s office or by mail absentee. If you vote early at the clerk’s office you don’t need a reason to do so — just show up and exercise your right. However if you want to vote absentee by mail, you have to request and submit an application indicating the specific reason why you need to vote in this manner. Absentee ballot applications must be in the hands of the clerk’s office by October 31. Postmarked by October 31 is not acceptable and will prevent your vote from being counted.

The good news is that if you are a registered voter in some way, shape or form, you cannot be turned away from the polls, early, on Election Day or otherwise. But if you plan to vote on Election Day but failed to update your voter registration information or there are questions regarding the validity of your ID, you may be required to use a provisional ballot instead of a regular one.

A provisional ballot allows an individual to fill out their voting intentions, but the ballot is not submitted for counting until the issues and questions are resolved. The ballot is sealed in an envelope with your voter information on it to be counted at a later. Voters with ID issues have until the end of Election Day to get those issues resolved to have their ballot counted that day. If it can’t be resolved within a few hours, voters have up to 10 days to have the issue resolved and their ballot counted. (Remember, on election night the results are preliminary and subject to a variety of things like recounts and provisional ballot consideration before the election is officially certified.)

Registered voters who have moved without updating their registration can still cast a ballot, regular or provisional, in most instances dependent upon the circumstances, especially if they go back to their old precinct. Even a move out of state cannot prevent you from at the very least casting your vote for president of the United States.

For specific information on what your rights are as a voter in Indiana, look for the 2016 Indiana Election Day Handbook online or in your county clerk’s office. Every voter should do what he or she can do to make sure his or her vote counts this November.

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Amber Stearns

Amber Stearns

Amber Stearns was born, raised, and educated right here in Indianapolis. She holds a B.S. in Communications from the University of Indianapolis (1995). Following a 20-year career in radio news in Indiana, Amber joined NUVO as News Editor in 2014.

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