State offers voter IDs

Published 9:39 pm Monday, March 10, 2014

Voters who don’t have a valid photo ID to use in Alabama’s elections can get one free at county board of registrars’ offices.
Alabama’s chief election official, Secretary of State Jim Bennett, said Monday that registrars’ offices in every county will be offering the free IDs, starting this week. The offices are open during regular courthouse hours, he said.
“I don’t expect a lot of people will need to get the free IDs,” said Pike County Probate Judge Wes Allen. “But if they do, our registrars’ office is located in the basement of the courthouse and is open from 8 to 5 every day.”
In addition, the required photo IDs are available in the secretary of state’s office in the Capitol and, starting March 17, from vans that will be visiting all 67 counties. Their schedules will be announced soon.
“We are covering the state in a broad way,” Bennett said.
After Republicans took control of the Legislature from Democrats, they passed a law in 2011 to require a photo ID to vote. The law takes effect with the primary election June 3.
“We think it will help improve our voting system. Voters, of course, ought to be who they claim to be,” the Republican secretary of state said.
Many types of photo IDs can be used, including an Alabama driver’s license, Alabama non-driver ID, state-issued ID, federal ID, passport, Alabama public or private college ID, college ID from a state college in another state, military ID and employee ID from a federal, state, county or city government.
Allen said he will be leading a series of presentations at area senior centers to help explain the changes to the law. The first meeting will be at 10:30 a.m. March 17 at the Brundidge Nutrition Center at Brundidge Station.
The secretary of state’s office reports that a check of voting records with the state Department of Public Safety shows 20 percent of Alabama’s registered voters, or about 500,000 adults, lack a driver’s license or non-driver ID issued by the Department of Public Safety. Bennett estimated half of that group has one of the other acceptable forms of photo IDs.
Those without a proper ID can get one free by going to a registrars’ office, the secretary of state’s office or one of the vans with documents showing their full legal name, date of birth and address.
Examples of photo IDs that can be used to obtain a free voter ID include a high school ID, an ID from a private employer and a hospital or nursing home ID. Non-photo IDs with a person’s full legal name and date of birth can be used, including a birth certificate, marriage record, military record, Medicaid or Medicare document, or official school transcript. The voter will get a paper ID initially, but should get a permanent ID by mail within two weeks. The permanent IDs don’t expire like a driver’s license would, Bennett said.
The secretary of state’s office reports it is spending about $800,000 to implement the law. That includes equipment from Police & Sheriff’s Press in Valdosta, Ga., van travel and a media campaign, he said.
More than half the states have enacted photo ID laws for voting. Some have not taken effect because of legal challenges or delayed implementation dates.

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