Fact Check-Biden and Obama did win states that required photo ID to vote

Social media users are claiming that U.S. President Joe Biden only won 2020’s election in states that did not require a photo identification to vote and lost in every state that did require photo ID. Some on social media have made similar claims about former President Barack Obama in the elections he won in 2008 and 2012. But these claims are inaccurate.

Examples of posts making this claim can be seen (here) and (here).


The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has a chart showing the chronology of voter identification laws in each state, viewable (here).

It shows that in 2020, six states strictly required a photo identification to vote: Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Another 11 states requested a photo identification, but it was not strictly required for the vote to be counted: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas.

According to independent data aggregator 270toWin, Biden won the electoral vote in five of these states: Hawaii, Michigan, Rhode Island, Georgia and Wisconsin (here)

Also contrary to the online posts, Biden lost in 10 states that did not ask for photo IDs: Oklahoma, Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wyoming and Utah.


According to the NCSL, four states required strict photo ID to vote in 2012: Georgia, Indiana, Kansas and Tennessee. And six states made non-strict photo ID requests: Hawaii, Idaho, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan and South Dakota.

Contrary to the online posts, Obama won the electoral vote in 2012 in three states with photo ID rules: Hawaii, Florida and Michigan (here).

Obama also lost in 18 states with no photo ID requirement: Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, North Dakota, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Mississippi, Kentucky, West Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina.


In 2008, only two states required strict photo identification – Georgia and Indiana – and five asked for photo ID but were not strict – Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Michigan and South Dakota.

An election map from 2008 shows that among states requesting photo ID, Obama won in Indiana, Hawaii, Florida and Michigan (here).

Contrary to the social media posts, Obama lost in 20 states where no photo ID was required: Alaska, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, South Carolina.


The NCSL describes voter identification as “one of the hottest topics in elections policy” in recent years, particularly since the early 2000s, when there was a sharp rise in states adopting new voter identification laws (here).

The MIT Election Data and Science Lab wrote in a 2021 explainer that, “Under the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA), all first-time voters in federal elections in every state must show some form of ID at the polls if they registered by mail. (They do not need to show ID if they registered in person.) States are allowed to augment identification requirements beyond this ‘HAVA minimum’ for all voters, first-time or not.” (here).

The website adds: “States with HAVA-minimum requirements typically require voters to announce their name and address at a check-in table when they vote in person.”

According to the NCSL, Georgia and Indiana pioneered strict voter photographic ID laws, which meant not just requesting a photo ID to vote, but requiring one for the ballot to be counted. If the voter did not have a photo ID with them, their vote would not count unless they returned to the polling office in the next few days to show one.

States with non-strict photo ID laws request a photo ID and offer various alternatives if a voter cannot or refuses to present one, such as signing an affidavit or matching the voter’s signature to one on record.


According to the NCSL, as of 2021, 35 states have laws asking for some form of identification from voters at the polls, though not all have compulsory requirements.

An NCSL map of voter-identification laws in every state can be seen (here), and a similar map by Ballotpedia can be seen (here).

A Reuters explainer on how new U.S. laws – including those around voter ID – could trip up voters this November can be seen (here).


False. Obama won in some states that had photo identification laws in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, and Biden won the 2020 vote in five states that required photo ID. Both lost in several states that had no photo ID laws at the time in all three of these elections.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .