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Across country, GOP pushes photo ID at the polls

Associated Press | 3/29/2011, 6:50 p.m.

States already have ways to check the identity of voters when they register and when they go to cast a ballot. North Carolina’s current law requires residents to provide documents proving their name and address in order to register to vote. Those who register improperly can be charged with a felony.

At the polls, North Carolina voters must declare their valid name and address in order to get their ballot. Impersonating another registered voter is also a felony, as is voting more than once in an election.

In Georgia, which has had a strict voter ID law on the books for years, Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp said he’s not aware of anyone caught committing fraud. He argues that the rules help prevent people who try to file improper votes from having them counted.

Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp said he’s not aware of anyone caught committing fraud because of the law but argued that it has helped make elections more secure.

Kemp said about two-thirds of people who cast provisional ballots because of missing photo IDs - there were about 1,200 during the 2008 presidential election - do not return to election offices. He suspects those people either knew the outcome of the election and didn’t feel the need to confirm their vote, or they were trying to commit fraud. He doesn't see any signs that minorities or any other people are participating less because of the law.

“I don’t think it’s created any kind of burden for our citizens,” Kemp said.

Estimated costs vary for states to implement the changes and provide picture IDs for those who don’t already have a driver’s license or other qualifying identification. North Carolina estimates a cost of more than $3 million in the first year and about $400,000 each year going forward. Missouri estimates that a proposal in that state could also cost millions. Texas would spend $2 million in the coming year to implement the law there.

Tennessee’s law wouldn't require the state to provide IDs, so Hargett believes the cost would be minimal.

Many of the state efforts are coming due to increased GOP influence, as Republicans now control 25 state legislatures and 29 governor’s offices. In Kansas, for example, the GOP-controlled Legislature approved a photo ID bill three years ago but then-Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed it. The state’s new Republican governor, Sam Brownback, supports the photo ID rules, which are advancing through the Legislature now.

South Carolina is moving forward to require photo IDs, strengthening a law which already requires voters to show either driver’s licenses, voter registration cards or DMV-issued ID cards. The topic has been racially divisive in Mississippi for years and will now be on the ballot as an initiative after a petition authored by a Republican lawmaker got enough signatures. The new Republican majority in the Alabama Legislature is hoping to push a photo ID law through after years of discussing it.

“I think most citizens think it’s common sense,” Kemp said. “I think it’s important for people, not only from a fraud perspective, but to make sure that people have confidence in the system.”

Associated Press