New Voter ID Laws Going into EffectPublished 10:15pm Thursday, November 14, 2013
State and local elections officials are working to be ready when new voter identification rules take effect in January, but will first be felt during the state primaries in June 2014.
Secretary of State Jim Bennett released the certified regulations for the more stringent voter ID requirements to local elections officials in late October. Tallapoosa County Probate Judge Leon Archer said he wants to get the information out before the new regulations take effect in January 2014.
Under rules passed by the Legislature two years ago, the list of acceptable documents to prove a voter’s identification has been reduced from 26 documents — including utility bills and fishing licenses — to forms of ID with a photograph, such as drivers’ licenses, passports or the free voter IDs that can be obtained at the county Board of Registrars office or the Secretary of State building in Montgomery.
“We just want to get people familiar with the new rules and give them a heads up about it,” Archer, who as probate judge is the county’s chief elections official, said.
During the 2011 legislative session, lawmakers amended the law to require photo identification be presented to elections officials before an official ballot is cast. Those without the proof of identification will only be able to cast a provisional ballot that would become valid only if their identity is later proven.
A non-driver’s license is also available from any public safety department. In addition, some 34 states including Alabama now require a form of photo ID at the polls. Free photo ID cards will be provided by the state for any voter who doesn’t already have one.
The release of rules followed a 35-day public comment period, where Bennett’s office received 51 proposed comments.
“We gave each of them thoughtful consideration and did make some revisions,” Bennett said. “We also met with various legislators, voter groups, senior citizen organizations, disabled citizens and nursing home administrators to gain their input.”
The process to issue free voter IDs will begin as soon as January, once the vendor’s contract is finalized and election officials are trained on the new system.
Among the revisions was the inclusion of previsions of the U.S. Voting Accessiblity for the Elderly and Handicapped Act, providing an exemption for elderly and handicapped citizens who vote absentee and can’t get to their regular polling place. They still must attest to the fact they are the person filing for the application.
The Alabama Department of Senior Services, with more than 367 offices around the state, also will provide voter ID cards to senior citizens and homebound voters who need them. Special voter photo vans will fan out across the state visiting city halls, libraries and other public places at time to be announced to distribute the new voter ID cards.
“We want to make this process as easy as possible on applicants while guarding against voter fraud at the same time,” Bennett said.
He added that an “extensive voter education campaign” detailing how to obtain a photo ID for voting purposes will blanket the state’s television, radio, print media and billboards next year.
Contact the Board of Registrars at 256-825-1081.
The office is located in the Tallapoosa County Courthouse in Dadeville.