Many Voters May Be Deterred by Tough ID Laws

Voters across the country waited in line to participate in Democratic primaries.
Associated Press + More

But Sharp said she supports the ID law despite initial concerns. She said most people were aware of the requirement and able to provide their identification, and she thought the rules provided an extra layer of security.

"We want to protect those voters who do need their vote to count — the people who are doing things in an honest manner," Sharp said.

Some administrators speculated that voters who didn't return to verify their identity may have deduced that the ballot wouldn't alter the outcome of the election.

Indiana, Georgia and Tennessee require that voters provide a photo ID at the polls. Failing that, voters can use a temporary ballot that can be verified later, when they must meet with local elections administrators to sort out the matter.

Pennsylvania is putting a similar law in place for the November election. Kansas has comparable rules. Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin are moving in that direction of having rules set for this year if they survive court challenges and federal approval.

Virginia had a rule allowing voters without proper ID to sign an identity statement; a false claim could make them subject to felony punishment. Under a new law awaiting final approval from the Justice Department, voters who do not bring proper ID, which doesn't necessarily have to have a photo, must use a temporary ballot and later provide ID to the local election board.

Georgia had 873 rejected temporary ballots due to ID from the 2008 general election while only about 300 ID temporary ballots were counted. The state also had 64 ID-related temporary ballots tossed in the presidential primary this year.

Indiana counties that maintained information from the 2008 election reported having hundreds of ballots tossed, and more than 100 more were rejected in the primary this year. The numbers can vary greatly depending on the election: Tippecanoe County, for example, had no ID-related temporary ballots excluded in the primary vote this year compared with 47 in the 2008 general election.

Tennessee had 154 blocked ballots in its March primary.

Keesha Gaskins, a senior counsel at the Brennan Center who has opposed voter ID laws, said she believes the numbers are significant and also underestimate the impact of voter ID laws. She said those numbers don't take into account people who were discouraged from showing up to vote in the first place or who may be turned away by poll workers. Even voters in states with less-strict ID laws may not get the proper explanation about how the process works without ID.

Beyond that, Gaskin said, rejecting even hundreds of ballots in an election is significant.

"These are still people who attempted to vote and who were unable to do so," Gaskins said. "When you compare that to the actual evidence of fraud, the difference is exponential."

___

Mike Baker can be reached on Facebook: on.fb.me/HiPpEV

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.