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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

UPDATE: Rhode Island’s new voter ID law

UPDATE: Beware of unintended consequences
of State Charlie White  (R) found GUILTY   of voter 
fraud by lying about his actual residence.
By Will Collette

UPDATE (August 15): Despite NO evidence that voter fraud actually exists in Pennsylvania, and the state's admission that they have no such evidence, the state court judge in the case refused to issue an injunction against the Pennsylvania law taking effect for the November election.

Commonwealth Court Justice Robert Simpson, a Republican, refused to grant the motion for the injunction requested by opponents of the law.

He noted that their case was sympathetic in showing the likelihood that elderly, disabled, minority and low-income voters would be affected, but that he could not rule based on sympathy.

The bill's opponents expect to file an appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Rhode Island has a similar law.

UPDATE (July 24): the US Justice Department is taking a hard and critical look at many state voter ID laws to see if they are really efforts to disenfranchise legitimate voters. In Pennsylvania, which has a law similar to Rhode Island's, there is also an ACLU lawsuit that is about to go to trial.

In that case, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has stipulated - admitted - that it has no evidence of any in-person voter fraud in the state, nor is it expecting any in the up-coming November election.

Further, the state admits it has no knowledge of any investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in any other state. 

This is bad new for Pennsylvania's defense of its Voter ID law. It's also something Rhode Island ought to keep in mind - we have enacted a law that addresses a non-existent problem at great expense and added inconvenience to voters.

Here is my original article:

The state's new voter ID law went into effect on January 1st. Rhode Island is the only state where a Democratically-controlled legislature passed one of the Republican Party’s top national priorities – a voter ID law. The legislation is a key part of the GOP’s 2012 election "voter suppression" strategy because of its anticipated “chilling” effect on minority groups who are more likely to vote for Democrats than Republicans.

How many older voters carry government issued photo ID?
The legislation also allows its supporters to rail against immigrants – its presumed target – and that is always a plus for Republican politicians.

However, in Rhode Island, the bill was initiated by Democratic Secretary of State Ralph Mollis and pushed through the General Assembly by two African American Democratic legislators from Providence, Harold Metts and Anastasia Williams. Although most of the General Assembly’s Republicans jumped on board and hard right-wingers, like Tea Party Rep. Doreen Costa (R-NO Kingstown) tried to take credit, this legislation was a self-inflicted measure by the Democrats.

The legislation is supposedly targeted at a largely non-existent pool of illegal immigrants who are allegedly attempting to register to vote. However, there are two other groups more likely- and unexpectedly -  to take the brunt of this new law: Senior Citizens and the non-resident owners of coastal property.

From now on, you will be expected to produce a government-issued photo ID when you step up to the volunteer poll workers on Primary and Election Days. UPDATE: Charlestown's Town Council voted in July to also place town finance referenda under the same requirement even though the state Voter ID law was optional in strictly local elections.

Then, in addition to taking the usual five minutes to figure out all the little pieces of paper you have to sign and they have to sign, these poll workers will also have to scrutinize your ID and then scrutinize you to make sure you and the ID match, and then go through the five minute exercise of checking, double-checking, triple-checking and doing it all over again before they hand you your ballot.

A couple weeks before Christmas, I was sitting in my opthamologist’s office. It was a fairly long wait so, in addition to reading magazines dating from the Nixon Administration, I paid some attention to who was coming and going. While I waited, eight patients checked in at the reception window. All of them were elderly and all of them were on Medicare.

In 2008, a new “Red Flags Rule” by the Federal Trade Commission went into effect that requires many businesses to require photo IDs to prevent fraud and identity theft. Although the Red Flags Rule is not mandatory in the health care industry, insurers, Medicare and Medicaid are urging medical providers to tell patients to crack out their ID. Some providers are even scanning patient drivers licenses into their electronic records and then compare the ID produced at each visit with the one in the file. 

My ophthalmologist’s office wants patients to crack out their ID so each of the eight elderly patients were asked to produce their papers. Of the eight, four did not have a photo ID in their possession. No drivers license, no nothing. 

While this is in no way a scientific survey, I was surprised. Red Flags is not a new rule, so this was not the first time these folks were asked to crack out an ID at the doctor's office. But nonetheless, half of them could not. 

Fast forward to our two Primary Days (April for President, September for everybody else) and Election Day. Consider how among all demographic groups, the elderly are the most faithful voters. Toss in the x factor of our volunteer poll workers. My suggestion: bring a book to read while you wait in line.

Oh, and there’s another rule to remember: the RI Board of Elections plans to FORBID the display of any partisan tschotzke on your person. Under the anticipated rule, you may not wear a candidate’s t-shirt, cap, campaign button, sticker. NOTHING that in any way expresses a partisan political point of view. You must produce proof of who you are. You MUST NOT produce anything that indicates what you think.

Finally, the one truly good thing about a voter ID law in Rhode Island is its likely effect on non-residents who think that owning property in coastal Rhode Island entitles them to vote. Westerly, Little Compton, Jamestown and Block Island actually have more registered voters than they have permanent residents over the age of 18. 

In Charlestown, we have a very high rate of voter registration, though I know our Town Clerk is pretty diligent about busting persons illegal to register in Charlestown.

With Voter ID, woe onto all those out-of-state gentry who hang out with RI Statewide Coalition and Charlestown Citizens Alliance. No matter what Harry Staley, Tom DePatie, Dan Slattery or Tom Gentz tell you, property does not buy you the right to vote. 

When you’re standing in line waiting your turn to get checked in to vote, remember that even our volunteer poll watchers know the difference between a Connecticut drivers license and one issued here in Little Rhody.