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| | |-+  Bill to require voter photo IDs upsets activists
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Author Topic: Bill to require voter photo IDs upsets activists  (Read 1296 times)
Soldier4Christ
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« on: September 23, 2006, 10:51:53 PM »

A bill that would require voters to present a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot in federal elections beginning in 2008 has been met with alarm and rejection by immigrant and civil rights activists in New Jersey.

The Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006, passed 228-196 by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, aims to prevent election fraud, especially voting by non-citizens.

Beginning in 2010, the bill would require voters to present an ID at the polling place that proves U.S. citizenship.

"Undocumented immigrants are afraid to even go open a bank account," said Martin Perez, president of the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey. "To think they are going to try to vote is absurd."

Perez said the bill is "just an effort to suppress the minority vote" by creating unnecessary barriers.

The bill's proponents and supporters argue that under the current system, with voter registration drives run by political parties, candidates and other partisan forces, non-citizens can easily be drafted into voting. They say the current requirement that voters must show some form of identification from a birth certificate to a utility bill is simply too vague.

"There is nothing radical about protecting integrity at the ballot box," said Audrey C. Jones, press secretary for Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage.

She said Garrett voted for the bill "because it will help preserve the integrity of the voting process protecting it from fraud and misconduct by ensuring that only those who are eligible to vote are allowed to do so."

Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, said the measure would disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minority voters, senior citizens, voters with disabilities and others who do not have a photo ID or the money to get one.

"It's sad that less than two months after the renewal of the Voting Rights Act, the House of Representatives chose to pass a bill that takes away voting rights from the very citizens the VRA was designed to protect," Jacobs said.

Ron Bass, who heads the Linden-based United Patriots of America, rejected the argument that some eligible voters might not be able to prove they are citizens.

"If somebody says they are legal but they can't prove it, I say, too bad, nice try, no cigar," he said. "If you can't prove it, you can't vote."

Although opponents insist the measure would create more problems than it would solve because voting by illegal immigrants is practically non-existent, Bass said Americans seeking tighter immigration controls consider voter fraud "a legitimate concern."

Democrats argue that because the people who tend to not have photo IDs are the poor, minorities and the elderly who usually vote Democratic, Republicans are pushing the bill in an effort to reduce Democratic turnout on Election Day.

Bass sees it from the opposite perspective. "All the Democrats want illegals to vote, so they don't even want to check on [citizenship]," he said. "But I think it's good that government officials are paying attention to this issue."

However, Bass was not optimistic that the bill would become law. "The Senate will turn it down because they are a bunch of traitors," he said. "They don't care who votes."

Opponents of the bill argue that some citizens who don't have a photo ID would be required to purchase one and that no eligible voter should in effect have to pay to cast a ballot.

They say those who don't have the financial means to acquire a photo ID would be discouraged from voting.

In Georgia on Tuesday, one day before the House passed the ID bill, a judge ruled that state legislators had overstepped their authority and issued a permanent injunction against a law requiring voters to produce government-issued photo identification.

"Nowhere in the [Georgia] Constitution is the legislature authorized to deny a registered voter the right to vote on any other ground, including a possession of a photo ID," wrote T. Jackson Bedford Jr. of Georgia's Fulton County Superior Court.

In New Jersey, where voters need some form of identification, but not necessarily a photo ID or one that certifies whether the voter is a citizen, immigrant rights activists are concerned about the federal legislation.

"This is an outright violation of civil liberties and rights," said Partha Banerjee, the executive director of the New Jersey Immigration Policy Network. "People fought for civil liberties and rights for a long time and now some legislators are trying to chip that away, one at a time. This is really a serious concern for all of us."
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