Rhode Island’s Governor Lincoln Chafee signed the latest photo ID legislation into law on Saturday, adding Rhode Island to the onslaught of restrictive voting policies.
Under the new law, poll workers will ask voters for identification beginning in 2012, but a number of non-photo documents such as a Social Security card, debit card, or birth certificate will suffice for identification. In 2014, however, all identification will need to include a photo. All college, Rhode Island and federally issued IDs will be accepted under the new law. The state will provide free photo ID starting in 2012.
While the Rhode Island Tea Party is praising the Democratic-led General Assembly and Republican-turned-independent Governor Chafee for requiring voters in future elections to show identification at the polls, opponents were taken aback by the bipartisan support of the measure. The novel push by Democrats in Rhode Island came in the wake of Democratic governors in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Missouri, Montana and Minnesota all vetoing similar legislation for fear of disenfranchising student, elderly and minority voters.
Rhode Island’s legislative body dismissed any fear of the difficulties of obtaining ID because, as Republican Rep. Michael Chippendale so astutely pointed out, “Unless they are a hobbit living in the hills of Foster, how do they survive without identification?”
On the other hand, according to the Brennan Center’s study Citizens Without Proof 11 percent of Americans – more than 21 million potential voters – do not have a current, government-issued photo ID.
My question for Rhode Island: Why are you worrying about voter ID when you clearly have a huge hobbit infestation!? I don’t understand legislative priorities.