A growing number of conservative Republican state legislators worked fervently during the past two years to enact laws requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. Lawmakers proposed 62 photo ID bills in 37 states in the 2011 and 2012 sessions, with multiple bills introduced in some states. Ten states have passed strict photo ID laws since 2008, though several may not be in effect in November because of legal challenges. A News21 analysis found that more than half of the 62 bills were sponsored by members or conference attendees of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Washington, D.C., tax-exempt organization. ALEC has nearly 2,000 state legislator members who pay $100 in dues every two years. Most of ALEC’s money comes from nonprofits and corporations — from AT&T to Bank of America to Chevron to eBay — which pay thousands of dollars in dues each year. “I very rarely see a single issue taken up by as many states in such a short period of time as with voter ID,” said Jennie Bowser, senior election policy analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan organization that compiles information about state laws. “It’s been a pretty remarkable spread.”
A strict photo ID law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, requires voters to show photo ID or cast a provisional ballot, which is not counted unless the voter returns with an ID to the elections office within a few days. Less-strict laws allow voters without ID to sign an affidavit or have a poll worker vouch for their identity — no provisional ballot necessary.
The flurry of bills introduced the last two years followed the 2010 midterm election when Republicans took control of state legislatures in Alabama, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina and Wisconsin. The same shift occurred in the 2004 election in Indiana and Georgia before those states became the first to pass strict voter ID laws. ALEC members drafted a voter ID bill in 2009, a year when the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization had $5.3 million in undisclosed corporate and nonprofit contributions, according to Internal Revenue Service documents.