Bill would require photo ID at polls

Published 12:12 pm Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A State House committee chaired by Rep. Jimmy Martin passed a bill Wednesday that would require Alabama voters to show photo identification at the polls.

The Constitution and Elections Committee approved the legislation by majority vote, sending it to the Rules Committee for placement on the House agenda. The bill’s primary sponsor is Rep. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa.

Currently, the law accepts several different types of voter identification, including but not limited to hunting or fishing licenses, pistol permits and utility bills.

“I’m in favor of it,” Martin said Wednesday, “especially for first-time voters.”

If the bill passes, Martin said, photo ID might not be compulsory in every situation because poll workers tend to learn the voters in their precinct. For new voters, however, a strengthened state law would provide more reliable proof of a person’s identity, supporters contend.

Lawmakers who oppose the bill say it could cause difficulty for elderly and low income Alabama voters.

Registered voters without a driver’s license or other form of photo identification would probably need to obtain a non-driver ID card from the state. These are available wherever driver’s licenses are available.

“A tremendous amount of people do not have photo identification, but it’s available through the Department of Public Safety, and it’s good for eight years,” Martin said.

Sen. Hank Erwin also expressed support for the measure, calling it a “no-brainer.”

“You can’t cash a check without using a photo ID, so it seems to me that with something as important as voting, you should be able to prove who you are, and I think a photo ID is appropriate,” Erwin said.