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Thursday, April 5, 2012 06:25 pm

Bills would require ID to vote

Preventing voter fraud, but at what price?

Illinois is one of at least 24 states considering controversial voter identification measures. Proponents say ID%u2008requirements would prevent vote fraud while critics say they amount to discrimination.

An Illinois Senate subcommittee held two such bills in committee on March 22, keeping them from reaching the full Senate, with votes falling along party lines. Both bills remain in the executive subcommittee.  

 Senate Bill 2496 would require voters to present a government-issued photo ID before voting.  Current Illinois law requires that voters provide a photo ID card only for voting early.

A similar bill, Senate Bill 3750, would require the State Board of Elections and local election authorities to create a system of voter registration ID cards with a picture of the voter on the card. The bill would require a voter to present the ID card before voting. If the voter cannot provide the ID card he or she would receive a provisional ballot instead. A provisional ballot is used to record a vote when there is a question about a voter’s eligibility.

SB 3750, sponsored by Sen. William Brady, R-Bloomington, also would require the elections board to establish a voter education program that would educate the public about the proposed law. Brady was the Republican candidate for governor in 2010.

Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, voted for both bills on behalf of the three Republicans on the panel, while committee chairman Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, voted against both bills on behalf of the panel’s four Democrats. Harmon’s vote effectively kept the bills from passing the subcommittee, revealing how divisive the issue is along party lines.

Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, the chief sponsor of SB 2496, said during the meeting that his bill is very simple to understand.

“This bill requires that a person needs to be able to provide a driver’s license, an Illinois ID or another form of government-issued photo ID to the election judges for verification,” McCarter said.    

McCarter said there is a growing feeling among voters in the East St. Louis area that “their vote doesn’t matter.”

The two Senate bills come at a time when state voter registration and voter ID requirements are garnering national attention.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures website, 16 states require a form of ID, but not a photo ID for a person to vote. Seven states currently require voters to show a photo ID before they are allowed to vote, though people unable to show a photo ID can still vote if they meet other criteria.

Tennessee, Indiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Georgia allow a person to vote only if they can show a photo ID. If a voter cannot provide a photo ID, they are given a provisional ballot, which is only counted if they return to the election officials within several days after the election and show a photo ID.   

Matt Hawkins, president of the East St. Louis Alliance for Change, said during the meeting that according to recent census data there are 19,000 registered “persons” over the age of 18 in the East St. Louis area, but there are about 22,000 people registered to vote.

“We are looking at 3,000 more people than are actually possible to vote,” Hawkins said. “We believe that it is very easy for registration fraud to become voter fraud.”  

The East St. Louis Alliance for Change is a political action committee (PAC) and civic organization.

Hawkins, a supporter of SB 2496, believes that a single form of ID, such as a Firearm Owner’s ID card, should be acceptable ID to allow a person to vote.

Edwin Yohnka, the director of communications and public policy for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said one of the problems that keeps popping up in this type of legislation is that certain groups such as “the poor, elderly and colored folks” are becoming “less likely to be able to vote simply because they don’t possess a state issued form of ID.”

“At a time when our nation is facing lots of different issues such as civil liberties and the future of the economy, we shouldn’t be in a position of denying fellow citizens the right to vote simply on the basis that they don’t possess an ID,” Yohnka said. “As far as I can tell, there is not a single case of voter imitation or voter fraud by imitating someone else that has ever been indentified, investigated and prosecuted in the state of Illinois.”  

Contact Neil Schneider at nschneider@illinoistimes.com.
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