PROVIDENCE, RI - The state House of Representatives today approved legislation from Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis that will require voters to show ID at the polls beginning in 2012. The House passed both S 400 and H 5680 by wide margins.
"We thank the legislature for voting to ensure the integrity of our elections, especially state Sen. Harold Metts and state Rep. Jon Brien, who introduced the bills at our request, as well as House co-sponsors Speaker Gordon Fox and Representatives Doreen Costa, J. Patrick O'Neill and Joe Trillo," said Mollis.
"The perception that identity theft could occur at the polls weakens the public's faith in the fairness of our elections. Voting should be at least as secure as everyday tasks like renting a car or getting a library card that routinely require ID," said Mollis.
"Photo ID ensures that poll workers can match a face to the name that voters give them when they obtain their ballots at the polls. The simple act of asking for ID protects the rights of every voter," said Mollis.
Twenty-nine states already require voter ID, according to the National Council of State Legislators. In addition, voter ID bills are pending in Maine, New York and Pennsylvania among other states.
Under Rhode Island's bill, poll workers will ask voters to show a photo ID beginning in 2012. If they do not have a photo ID, voters can use a variety of non-photo identification including a Medicare or social security card.
Beginning in 2014, voters will be required to show photo ID including a Rhode Island driver's license, military ID, college ID or U.S. passport.
The bill incorporates all the requirements that the U.S. Supreme Court set in its 2008 opinion when it heard the case against Indiana's photo ID law including providing free photo ID cards to voters.
"No one will be denied the opportunity to vote," Mollis emphasized. "Every voter who does not bring ID can cast a provisional ballot, which we already use whenever there is a question about eligibility."
Provisional ballots are counted once the local Board of Canvassers has confirmed that the ballot was properly cast.
The Secretary of State’s office prepares the ballots for all federal, state and municipal elections held in Rhode Island. In addition, the office maintains the statewide voter registration list and distributes handbooks that explain how to run for office, how to register to vote and how to vote.
Secretary of State Mollis is committed to making it easier for Rhode Islanders to vote, helping businesses grow and making government more open and accessible. For more information about elections and voting, visit sos.ri.gov.
KEY FACTS · Phase-in Voter ID in 2012 by allowing certain non-photo documents · Require poll workers to ask for Photo ID beginning in 2012 · Voters will be required to present Photo ID beginning in 2014 · State will provide free photo IDs to those who don’t have them · All U.S. educational institution-, State of Rhode Island- and federally issued Photo IDs are valid including RIPTA passes for seniors and persons with disabilities · Absentee ballots will not require Photo ID · Voters who don’t present an ID may vote a Provisional ballot · The constitutionality of Photo ID was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008
MEDIA CONTACT: Chris Barnett - 222-4293