Tossed Ballots Add Up as Voter ID Laws Spread; Legitimate Votes That Are Rejected Seem to Far Outnumber Cases of Fraud, Associated Press Study Suggests

Article excerpt

When Edward and Mary Weidenbener went to vote in Indiana's primary in May, they didn't realize that state law required them to bring government photo IDs such as a drivers license or passport.

The husband and wife, both approaching 90 years old, had to use a temporary ballot that would be verified later, even though they knew the people working the polling site that day. Unaware that Indiana law obligated them to follow up with the county election board, the Weidenbeners ultimately had their votes rejected - news to them until they were informed recently by an Associated Press reporter.

Edward Weidenbener, a World War II veteran who had voted for Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential contest, said he was surprised by the rules and the consequences.

"A lot of people don't have a photo ID. They'll be automatically disenfranchised," he said.

As more states put in place strict voter ID rules, an AP review of temporary ballots from Indiana and Georgia, which first adopted the most stringent standards, found that more than 1,200 such votes were tossed out during the 2008 general election.

During sparsely attended primaries this year in Georgia, Indiana and Tennessee, the states implementing the toughest laws, hundreds more ballots were blocked.

The numbers suggest that the legitimate votes rejected by the laws are far more numerous than are the cases of fraud that advocates of the rules say they are trying to prevent. Thousands more votes could be in jeopardy this November, when more states with larger populations are looking to have similar rules in place.

More than two dozen states have some form of ID requirement, and 11 of those passed new rules over the last two years largely at the urging of Republicans who say they want to prevent fraud.

Missouri requires identification to vote, but the ID doesn't have to include a photo. Illinois generally does not require ID at the polls.

In Missouri, the GOP-controlled Missouri Legislature approved a ballot measure last year that, if passed by voters, would amend the state constitution to make it easier for lawmakers to issue tougher identification requirements for voters. But in March, a Cole County Circuit Court judge sent the proposed amendment back to the Legislature for violating truth in advertising requirements on ballot language. The ballot summary for the measure had referred to the proposal as the Voter Protection Act, but the bill itself makes no mention of such a phrase nor even includes the word "protection."

In Illinois, a Republican legislative proposal to make voters show a photo ID was shot down earlier this year by Democrats.

Democrats and voting rights groups fear that ID laws could suppress votes among people who may not typically have a drivers license, and disproportionately affect the elderly, poor and minorities. While the number of votes is a small percentage of the overall total, they have the potential to sway a close election. The 2000 presidential race was decided by a 537-vote margin in Florida.

A Republican leader in Pennsylvania said recently that the state's new ID law would allow Romney to win the state over President Barack Obama.

Supporters of the laws cite anecdotal cases of fraud as a reason that states need to do more to secure elections, but fraud appears to be rare. As part of its effort to build support for voter ID laws, the Republican National Lawyers Association last year published a report that identified some 400 election fraud prosecutions over a decade across the entire country. …

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