Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Friday, February 11, 2005

SB 5499 requires ID to vote -- sort of

This new section would be added to the law by Senate Bill 5499:

"NEW SECTION. Sec. 10 A new section is added to chapter 29A.44 RCW to read as follows: Any person desiring to vote at any primary or election is required to provide identification to the election officer before signing the poll book. The identification required in this section can be satisfied by providing a current and valid driver's license or state identification card, a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and a photo, signature, or address of the voter. The name must match the name in the poll book and the identification must also provide a photo, signature, or matching address. Any individual who desires to vote in person but cannot provide identification shall be issued a provisional ballot. The secretary shall conduct an educational campaign to inform voters of the identification requirement under this section." [Emphasis added.]

Note the word "or" where it appears in the list of acceptable forms of identification and in the required elements to prove identity. Anyone who cannot present an identification card on which there is a photograph of the person to whom the card is supposed to belong can get by with the other forms of identification which don't have photographs on them.

While this new section looks good at first glance, it actually only requires a utility bill or bank statement on which the name and address of the registered voter appear.

That's better than nothing, but I would prefer that voters show the same kind of proof of identity that would be required for all other important transactions, e.g., cashing a personal check or boarding a commercial airliner.

The signature in the poll book doesn't keep illegitimate ballots out of the ballot box. No one verifies the signature before the ballot goes into the box, and once in the box it cannot be retrieved and segregated from the legitimate ballots.

Requiring proof of identity through the use of an identification card that has the person's photograph on it isn't a perfect way to prevent fraud, but it's probably the only practical way to try to prevent it.


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