Debates aside over whether identification requirements to vote are ploys to disenfranchise the poor or to make voter fraud easier, there’s little chance that Colorado will institute a photo ID requirement until it cleans up its own system of issuing them, according to one local state lawmaker.
Rep. Keith Swerdfeger, R-Pueblo West, said that the complicated process of getting a state identification card has been a hurdle in passing legislation to require IDs. “I’m a believer in a state ID to vote but how do we streamline the process?” he asked.
He’s talked a few times with Jon Manley, assistant director of the Pueblo Department of Revenue office, about the problems and gotten an earful from constituents, too. The controversy over photo IDs has surfaced in a number of states.
The U.S. Department of Justice recently intervened to block a South Carolina law opponents charged was aimed at discouraging the poor and minorities to vote. In Wisconsin, charges flew from opponents of Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators facing a recent recall election that motor vehicle offices were either closed in Democratic areas or employees were told not to inform people that IDs could be obtained for free.
The argument goes that the poor, especially the elderly, will find it harder to obtain IDs if they have no way of getting to state offices or have to do a lot of paperwork.
In Pueblo, Manley said there are a significant number of state IDs issued to people without driver’s licenses, to young people who aren’t able to drive yet and older people who have given up their cars, but it’s not always an easy process.
The cost of IDs could be an issue too, if cards are required for voting. In Colorado, it costs $10.50 for anyone 59 or younger, free for 60 and older, and some critics argue that could be considered a “poll tax,” one of the Jim Crow devices once used by Southern states to drive away African-American voters. What confuses things, Swerdfeger said, are the layers of regulation covering IDs: the federal Real ID law and Colorado’s own rules about how to obtain an identification card.