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Thursday, October 25, 2012

A little late for this, Gordon

First he promised to bring a vote on marriage equality if he gets re-elected, now he says he’ll force the House of Representatives to take another look at the newly enacted voter ID law too.

“Should I be fortunate to be re-elected, I will be sponsoring legislation to include a ‘sunset provision’ in the law,” said Speaker of the House Gordon Fox, in an email to me on Monday evening. “The sunset would force a ‘re-look’ at the law, which means legislative hearings would be held to learn the effectiveness of the law and whether modifications need to be made. That would include looking at the more restrictive provisions set to be enacted for the 2014 election cycle.”

2014 is the first election voters would be required to show a photo ID; in this election voters area allowed to show any form of identification, including utility bills.
In his email, Fox compared the potential voter ID sunset provision with one in the newly enacted seat belt law passed last year.
Fox co-sponsored the voter ID with outgoing conservative Rep. Jon Brien of Woonsocket, who lost in a primary but is still attempting to keep his seat through a writ-in campaign. Brien and Fox, once allies, have become estranged as of late. 
It started when Brien wouldn’t support a supplemental property tax for Woonsocket at the end of the legislative session, but increased and became public when Brien said he didn’t know the loan guarantee legislation he sponsored in 2010 was going to 38 Studios. Fox says Brien is lying about this to protect his reputation.
Brien is a board member of ALEC, which is well-known for pushing voter ID bills in state legislatures around the country. Rhode Island’s version is less restrictive than the ALEC model legislation.
Fox said, “I voted in favor of the Voter ID law after listening to concerns raised about voter fraud by fellow members of the minority community such as Rep. Anastasia Williams and Sen. Harold Metts.  We passed one of the least restrictive Voter ID laws in the country, allowing a voter in 2012 to show virtually any type of ID – which doesn’t need to include a photo. However, the law we passed toughens requirements for the 2014 election to include just photo IDs.”
John Marion, executive director of Common Cause RI, said he “welcomes” an opportunity to revisit the controversial law.
“I will be very interested to see what the Speaker comes up with,” he said. “I have heard other opponents who are interested in freezing the law at the 2012 requirements, so this will be a lively debate if there are multiple proposals out there.”
While 30 states have voter ID laws, according to ProPublica, only ten states require a photo ID as Rhode Island’s law would require next election cycle. Those ten state are: Pennsylvania (which is being challenged in court), Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana, Indiana, Michigan, South Dakota, Kansas and Idaho.

Fox first said he would reconsider the voter ID law in a televised debate on WPRI.

Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.