Legal Alternatives to State Issued Photo Identification

Perhaps you are waiting in line for campaign workers to affirm that you are on the list of qualified voters. But oh, you don’t have that naughty mandatory state-confirmed photo ID?

Voting: Your right or just another partisan issue?

The National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan organization that provides a service to legislators throughout the 50 states, proffers a convenient list of requirements for voting for the 50 states and for U.S. territories. 

A growing number of folks point out that legislating a mandatory photo ID for voting amounts to a poll tax for disadvantaged persons and the poor. Getting a photo ID in the courthouse of your county is too much trouble. And besides, they have a habit of advertising your social security number where there should be a private tracking number instead. There are, of course, many states that will use an alternate number on their own issued photo ID document. Quite possibly, you don’t want one or you don’t want to give out or advertise to the world such exclusive information. Perhaps you just don’t want to walk through the X-Ray machine. It’s all your decision. So what are your options?

The necessary case for photo identification is not completely a private one such as in a case such as voting but rather a legal or civil matter. Any student ID, for example, may have your photo and your current semester but in fact lacks biometric data that is instrumental in making a visual assessment based not only on your photo, but also on other traits such as height or eye color.

Get your own photo ID

Any photo identification needs to pass a most basic test before it can be used, and that test is a legal one. Whereas you can have your ID validated in a legal fashion in each or any state, only a recognized legal method of your own state of residence applies. Such a legal method must therefore be valid for other legal purposes in your state as well as for your intention to use it for validating your own photo ID. 

Your options, therefore, are limited either to getting a passport through the federal authority or to get your own photo ID through a state-recognized channel. Since passports tend to be prohibitively expensive, there is a lot of appeal in having your own legal photo ID made privately with data that does not expose private data to common crooks.

You should also include certain biometric data if it you plan to use it as an alternative to official state-issued forms of identification. If you want to establish a case for how long you have been living in your state, then you should be prepared to compile a quarterly list of paid utility bills for one or multiple addresses to show to witnesses.


A passport takes 2-6 weeks to receive once the application form and all requirements have been submitted to the NPIC (National Passport Information Center), generally in person. Costs are from $135 to $165 and for many would be too expensive. The form is DS-11, and applications can be made online, in person at a Passport Center in your state (considered “Expedited” as in +$60), and in some cases by U.S. Mail. 

Legal photo identification

What it means to have your own, private legal photo identification is that you have taken the time to assemble an identification card of your own that includes a real photo of yourself and a notary’s seal and signature, in addition to a witness who signs to affirm that you are who you say you are. In addition to standard biometric data, you will also need a copy of your birth certificate and a certificate acknowledging your state of residency, such as a voter registration card in the state that you plan to vote in. If you are not planning on voting and want the ID for other purposes, you may then decide what data is relevant to your purpose.

Good suggestions for face profile photos can be found at the U.S. Department of State via the Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA).

It’s important at this point to recognize that in the private realm, no one is obligated to accept any particular photo ID if they do not want to be part of a perceived risk. To increase your private ID’s chances of acceptance, go to another notary to certify that you are of legal age. For example, it’s still likely that no one will sell you alcohol with a private ID, but then it’s really up to the person making the sale.

Getting a license isn’t the reason this article is showing you how to get your own private ID, so legal privileges shouldn’t matter. The express purpose is to carry with you a legal way to prove your identity any place where legal records matter as part of recognized procedure. Since private businesses do not actually approve the legal procedures of selling restricted products, they have no actual stake in taking on any risk that could be used against them. And since buying alcohol is a privilege rather than a right, you have to prove that the state recognizes your privilege in that case. Whereas, at least for voting, you need establish only your legitimate identity that may certainly be confirmed upon registering to vote.

In fact, it makes no legal sense in any case to increase the number of documents necessary to vote over those that are necessary to register to vote.

For matters of government, seeing the work of a notary’s affirmation that you have been identified by, altogether with a third party witness and that your documents match the claims of your identity, should be sufficient to establish a legal document validated in a way already commonly accepted for establishing legal records. Additionally, you are getting two witnesses rather than the single witness who usually approves a photo ID at the courthouse, therefore with greater confirmation. And so the validity of the private photo ID should be of firmer basis than the validity of the corresponding state-issued document.

Data to include in a private legal photo ID

The sort of data that should be on your own personal ID may vary depending on the sort of purpose that you have in mind. For use in legal matters, it’s generally important that the document identify that you are a legal resident of your state, bearing your actual home address. A face shot and body shot that shows your appearance must be included for a photo ID. Also included should be hair color, eye color, height, birthday, and legal age. The identification number is the most important part of the document, and you may determine the number with numeric or alphanumeric data.

You can use your private photo ID with any business that is willing to accept it. It should also be accepted as a valid means of affirming your identity with your state. Remember, it has been confirmed by two witnesses and a common legal ceremony already accepted in your state for such matters as the sale of titled property of any value whatsoever.