Preventing the Headache

Preventing the Headache

Image: Canva

You know that moment: when you realize that you have a full-blown headache. Ugh. You know you could have prevented it by drinking more water, by going to bed at a normal hour, or by minimizing your stress. But now you have it and you can’t stop to rest because of a billion things you need to get done.

Lucky for me, at this particular moment I don’t have a headache, and I’m thinking ahead to the not-so-distant future. What does my crystal ball say?

It says, “I don’t want to have any problems with identification when I vote in-person.” I want to prevent that headache.

Today, I live in California but I haven’t been here very long. My driver’s license is from Illinois and in the past three years, I’ve lived in two additional states: Pennsylvania and Indiana. Four states in three years.

I realize the potential headache I might develop at the polls. When I think back to how difficult it was for me to renew my Illinois drivers license last year (three tries), I’m motivated to act while there’s still time before the election.

Even though I don’t drive very often, it’s better to keep a photo ID than to lose it through expiration, but keeping it had proven to be complicated because of my footloose lifestyle.

So all of that got me thinking about what kind of identification I would need to present at my new polling place in California, about whether or not my identification would be acceptable, and how different the rules could be from state-to-state.

Have you seen All In: The Fight for Democracy? Voter suppression is real and there are more forms of it than I ever imagined.

In theory, there should never be a pay wall to movies like this. #justsayin’

Here’s what I found out about the voting rules by state. The big question is “Do I need to show a photo ID to vote if I’m new to the state but I’m officially registered to vote?”


Pennsylvania has a short list of approved photo identification, but if you don’t have one, you can use something else with your name and address as long as it’s on the list below.

Approved forms of photo identification include:

  • Pennsylvania driver’s license or PennDOT ID card
  • ID issued by any Commonwealth agency
  • ID issued by the U.S. Government
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. Armed Forces ID
  • Student ID
  • Employee ID

Or, a non-photo identification with your name and address:

  • Confirmation issued by the County Voter Registration Office
  • Non-photo ID issued by the Commonwealth
  • Non-photo ID issued by the U.S. Government
  • Firearm permit
  • Current utility bill
  • Current bank statement
  • Current paycheck
  • Government check

Provisional Ballot If you are a registered voter but your name is not on the voter roster at your polling place, you have the right to vote a provisional ballot.


Public Law 109-2005 requires Indiana residents to present a government-issued photo ID before casting a ballot at the polls on Election Day. Instead of saying which particular forms of ID they accept, they indicate the qualities that the government issued photo ID must have.

  1. Display your photo.
  2. Display your name conforming to your voter registration record.
  3. Display an expiration date and either be current or have expired sometime after the date of the last General Election.
  4. Be issued by the State of Indiana or the U.S. government.

Provisional Ballot If you are unable or unwilling to present ID meeting these requirements, you may cast a provisional ballot. If you cast a provisional ballot, you have until noon 10 days after the election to follow up with the county election board and either provide the necessary documentation or affirm one of the law’s exemptions applies to you.


The rules for when a voter should not need to present photo ID and when they do are clearly laid out in Illinois.

However, an interesting caveat is that the explanation of the rules sets up the possibility that Election Judges may challenge your right to vote. (Say what?! When you read through it makes sense. Basically, Illinois realizes that people will show up to vote without being registered and they have a procedure in place to accommodate your new registration.)

0 Forms of ID

  • The voter is already registered at the voter’s current address and is voting in the correct precinct.
  • Signature appears to match the voter signature on file.
  • Election Judges do not challenge the person’s right to vote.

1 Form of ID

  • Election Judges challenge the person’s right to vote.
  • Voter submitted mail-in registration form that did not have Illinois identification/driver’s license number or Social Security number.

2 Forms of ID

  • The voter is registering in person after the voter registration deadline, including in the voter’s home precinct on Election Day.
  • The voter is filing an address change in person after the voter registration deadline, including in the voter’s home precinct on Election Day.

One of these two IDs must list the voter’s current address. Examples of acceptable ID are listed below.

  • Passport or Military ID
  • Driver’s License or State ID card
  • College/University/School/Work ID
  • Vehicle registration card
  • Lease, mortgage or deed to home
  • Credit or debit card
  • Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid card
  • Insurance card
  • Civic, union or professional membership card
  • LINK/Public Aid/Department of Human Services card
  • Illinois FOID card

Examples of first-class mail addressed to voter that can be used as ID:

  • Bill, Transcript or Report Card from School
  • Bank Statement, Pay Stub or Pension Statement
  • Utility, Medical or Insurance Bill
  • Official mail from any government agency

Provisional Ballot A voter who needs ID, but who cannot present ID, may cast a Provisional Ballot on Election Day. In order for that Provisional Ballot to be counted, the voter must present ID within 7 days of the election to the County Clerk’s office.


In most cases, a California voter is not required to show identification to a polling place worker before casting a ballot.

However, if you are voting for the first time after registering to vote by mail and did not provide your driver license number, California identification number or the last four digits of your social security number on your registration form, you may be asked to show a form of identification when you go to the polls. “Any doubt…shall be resolved in favor of permitting the voter or new registrant to cast a regular ballot.”

Proof of identity may be given with an original or a copy of any of the following documents:

  • driver’s license or identification card of any state;
  • passport;
  • employee identification card;
  • identification card provided by a commercial establishment;
  • credit or debit card;
  • military identification card;
  • student identification card;
  • health club identification card;
  • insurance plan identification card; or
  • public housing identification card.

Proof of residency dated after the last general election may be proven with the following:

  • utility bill
  • bank statement

Or, proof of residency dated after the last general election may be proven with the following documents issued by a governmental agency:

  • government check;
  • government paycheck;
  • sample ballot dated for this election;
  • voter notification card;
  • public housing identification card;
  • lease or rental statement or agreement;
  • student identification card;
  • tuition statement or bill;
  • insurance plan card or drug discount card;
  • discharge certificates or pardons in connection with the resolution of a criminal case, indictment, sentence, etc.;
  • public transportation senior citizen/disabled discount cards;
  • disability identification documents;
  • homelessness identification documents;
  • drug prescription documents;
  • property tax statement;
  • vehicle registration; or
  • vehicle certificate of ownership.

Provisional Ballot If a voter or new registrant does not present proof or a document that complies with this section, then the voter or new registrant shall be advised by the poll worker or other election official with whom the voter or new registrant is conferring that he or she may vote a provisional ballot and the voter or new registrant shall be permitted to do so.

Generally, since I have just moved to California, it was simple to gather the right documents and go to the DMV to apply for a new state-issued photo ID instead of waiting to hash it out at my polling place.

For this, I presented my:

  • Illinois driver’s license (but it wasn’t needed)
  • social security card
  • Pennsylvania birth certificate
  • USPS official change of address confirmation
  • Ventura County official voter registration confirmation

How fortunate was I that I did not have to present a utility bill or a bank statement? Very. (This was a big problem for me in Illinois. It took three tries.)

Because of the pandemic, I think I waited in line outside the DMV in California for about an hour, then another 20 minutes sitting inside the DMV. While it was inconvenient, it was way better than being nervous about having my residency challenged at the polls, not to mention the potential headache and embarrassment it would have caused.

If you don’t have a state ID with your current address that matches your address on file for voter registration, do yourself and everyone else at the polls a favor and get a new ID now.

Plus, if you think you might travel by plane again, make sure your new photo ID is a REAL ID. They will be required if you don’t have a passport by October 2021. All states are issuing them now, but that’s as of March 2020. It wasn’t the case last year in Illinois for my driver’s license renewal.

What’s the next item on my to-do list to prevent headaches? A passport.