Survey: Voter photo ID no lock to pass

Published 11:08 pm Monday, January 26, 2009

MONTGOMERY — A bill pushed by Attorney General Troy King to require Alabama voters to show photo identification at the polls has modest support but enough foes to make it difficult to pass, according to an Associated Press survey of legislators.

The survey found 45 percent of House members who responded and 47 percent of senators saying they support legislation requiring voters to show government-issued identification that includes a photo, like a driver’s license, a non-driver’s identification card or a military ID card.

But 38 percent of House members responding and 37 percent of senators said they oppose the measure, a degree of opposition that could make it difficult for the bill to come up for a vote or to stop debate in the House or Senate.

A total of 94 percent of senators and 70 percent of House members responded to the AP’s annual survey in advance of the 2009 session that begins Feb. 3.

Supporters believe this is the right time to push the legislation because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that upheld an Indiana law photo ID law. That law requires voters to present a state or federal photo ID card at the ballot box.

But opponents, mostly members of the Legislature’s black caucus, say the law would make it harder for some people to participate in democracy, particularly elderly and rural voters, who may not have a photo identification card and little means to get one.

King said he doesn’t understand why anyone would be opposed to requiring that voters show identification that includes a photo. King has included requiring photo identification at the polls in his list of priorities for the 2009 session.

“My goodness, to use a debit card you have to show identification. To pick up movie tickets you ordered online you have to show identification. How much more important than that is participating in democracy?” King said.

But state Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, who is black, said record numbers of voters participated in last year’s presidential election and this would be the wrong time to place what he believes would be a restriction on voting. He said the black caucus would oppose the legislation.

“We’re against anything that would deter people from voting,” he said.