A growing number of conservative Republican state legislators worked fervently during the last 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, including two by Democrats in Rhode Island. Ten states have passed strict photo-ID laws since 2008, though several face 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-based, tax-exempt organization. Pennsylvania’s law, which is counted among that group, was sponsored by Republican State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, an ALEC member. The law has been challenged in court and a decision is expected this week.
Signed into law on March 14, the law requires an acceptable photo ID. Metcalfe, from Butler County, said he had been a member of ALEC for more than a decade and had found it helpful for public and private sectors to share public-policy ideas. He said that his interest in voter ID had always been “outside of ALEC” and that his bill was modeled after an Indiana law but with some tweaks based on testimony at hearings and input from Pennsylvania residents. “We knew the Indiana law was upheld by the Supreme Court,” he said. “I’m not sure how much ALEC influenced Indiana law.”
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, from Chevron to eBay – that pay thousands in dues each year. ALEC’s staff declined to discuss with News21 the group’s role in advocating for voter-ID bills. “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 group that tracks state laws. “It’s been a pretty remarkable spread.”