Everything you wanted to know about voter ID, including Connecticut

ProPublica article on voter id: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Voter ID Laws <read>

Starting with the heart of the matter:

Why are these voter ID laws so strongly opposed?

Voting law advocates contend these laws disproportionately affect elderly, minority and low-income groups that tend to vote Democratic. Obtaining photo ID can be costly and burdensome, with even free state ID requiring documents like a birth certificate that can cost up to $25 in some places. According to a study from NYU’s Brennan Center, 11 percent of voting-age citizens lack necessary photo ID while many people in rural areas have trouble accessing ID offices. During closing arguments in a recent case over Texas’s voter ID law, a lawyer for the state brushed aside these obstacles as the “reality to life of choosing to live in that part of Texas.”

Attorney General Eric Holder and others have compared the laws to a poll tax, in which Southern states during the Jim Crow era imposed voting fees, which discouraged the working class and poor, many of whom were minorities, from voting.

Given the sometimes costly steps required to obtain needed documents today, legal scholars argue that photo ID laws create a new “financial barrier to the ballot box.”

Just how well-founded are fears of voter fraud?

There have been only a small number of fraud cases resulting in a conviction. A New York Times analysis from 2007 identified 120 cases filed by the Justice Department over five years. These cases, many of which stemmed from mistakenly filled registration forms or misunderstanding over voter eligibility, resulted in 86 convictions.

There are “very few documented cases,” said UC-Irvine professor and election law specialist Rick Hasen. “When you do see election fraud, it invariably involves election officials taking steps to change election results or it involves absentee ballots which voter ID laws can’t prevent,” he said.

One of the most vocal supporters of strict voter ID laws, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, told the Houston Chronicle earlier this month that his office has prosecuted about 50 cases of voter fraud in recent years. “I know for a fact that voter fraud is real, that it must be stopped, and that voter id is one way to prevent cheating at the ballot box and ensure integrity in the electoral system,” he told the paper. Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to ProPublica’s request for comment.

There are several other details covered in the ProPublica article. Pennsylvania’s law is perhaps coming under the most fire as the strictest and most burdensome. As this article points out, absentee voting essentially requires no id, so a voter intent on voting for someone else or registering fraudulently has a much easier method available: New Pa. voter ID law criticized as inconsistent <read>

Pennsylvanians who vote by absentee ballot in November will need only to provide proof on their applications that they have Social Security cards, state Rep. Dan Frankel said Monday night.

All voters who show up in person on Election Day, however, must have state-approved photo identification, the Squirrel Hill Democrat said.

“If the last four digits [of a Social Security number] are good enough for absentee ballots, they should be good enough for voting at the polls,” he said during a discussion of the state’s new voter ID law.

In Connecticut we have a moderate voter Id requirement that does not have the barriers that are so controversial in other states, still stricter that those for voting by absentee ballot. From the Moderators Handbook:

b. VOTER I.D. AND VOTING

The elector announces their street number, address and name in a loud voice to the checkers.  Each elector must present one of the following forms of identification to the checkers:

  • Their social security card, or
  • any pre-printed form of identification which shows their name and address, or
  • any pre-printed form of identification which shows their name and signature, or
  • any pre-printed form of identification which shows their name and photograph, or
  • sign a statement under penalty of false statement on Form ED-681 entitled, “Signatures of Electors Who Did Not Present ID”, provided by the Secretary of the State (see Form 3 in this Handbook) that the elector whose name appears on the official check list is the elector signing the form.  (§9-261)

As in all states there are also special HAVA requirements for some 1st time voters:

d. HAVA IDENTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

NOTE:  INDIVIDUAL VOTERS SUBJECT TO THE ADDITIONAL HAVA IDENTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS WILL HAVE AN ASTERISK (*) NEXT TO THEIR NAME  ON THE OFFICIAL VOTER LIST.

Please note, that in addition to the above procedures, those first time voters who register by mail after January 1, 2003, and vote for the first time in a federal election after January 1, 2004 are subject to the following additional requirements under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA):

  1. The voter must present identification with their mail-in registration or at the polls;
  2. If the voter is required to present identification at the polls pursuant to HAVA, the acceptable forms of identification under HAVA are:

a. A copy of a current and valid photo identification;

  1. A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or government document that shows the name and address of the voter;

EXCEPTION: If the voter provides:

  1. A valid Connecticut motor vehicle operator’s license number; or
  2. The last four digits of the individual’s Social Security number.

AND

The Registrars of Voters are able to verify that information prior to the election, the remaining HAVA identification provisions will not apply to the voter.  However, normal Connecticut identification procedures will still apply.

NOTE:  Members of the armed forces and persons entitled to use the federal post card application under section 9-153a of the general statutes, as amended by this act, are not required to provide identification when registering by mail.

If the voter is required to present identification at the poll pursuant to HAVA, the applicant is NOT allowed to sign a statement under penalty of false statement on Form ED-681 entitled “Signatures of Electors Who Did Not Present ID”, prescribed by the Secretary of the State that the elector whose name appears on the official check list is the elector signing.  (§9-261) (See Form 3)

If the voter is required to provide identification at the poll pursuant to HAVA and does NOT provide identification as outlined in section d(2), the applicant will be entitled to a provisional ballot.  See section entitled “Provisional Ballot” for information.

Our opinion

In Connecticut we are lucky to avoid the controversy this year. Lucky because we have moderate requirements that should satisfy those with reasonable concerns, yet not keep voters from voting because of costly and time consuming requirements. With no evidence of anything beyond the possibility of very very isolated cases of voter fraud in polling place voting there is no reason to add to our Id requirements. The ball is in the court of those with concerns to demonstrate the need.

We maintain our position that unlimited absentee voting or mail-in voting represent a real and much greater risk and concern. With absentee voting, individual voter fraud represents a minor part of our concern; where untended disenfranchising voter error represent a greater concern; and where documented and potential organized voting fraud by insiders and outsiders represents the greatest risk.

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