Oklahoma House passes voter identification bill in party-line vote

By Tim Talley
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (AP) 3-08

The Oklahoma House passed legislation that would require Oklahomans to show photo identification before they could vote in spite of objections from opponents who said the requirement creates a new obstacle to the right to vote and is unconstitutional.

The House approved the bill 55-42 along party lines following an hour-long debate in which Republicans said it would restore the public’s faith in the state’s voting process and Democrats said it would disenfranchise voters who commonly do not have IDs, including the elderly and minorities.

"Your fundamental right to vote has now been abridged,” said Rep. Scott Inman, D-Oklahoma City. “It is fundamentally unfair to a number of Oklahomans in this state.”

“We are asking to put this hurdle, this obstacle, in the way of voters,” said Rep. Ryan Kiesel, D-Seminole. Kiesel said there is no evidence the bill will stop voter fraud but it will make it harder to vote, discouraging more Oklahomans from voting.

“Don’t take away our right to vote,” said Rep. Ed Cannaday, D-Porum.

The measure’s author, Rep. Sue Tibbs, R-Tulsa, said the bill was designed to stop voter fraud in Oklahoma elections and was not an attempt to prevent people from voting.

Tibbs said election officials have discovered a variety of discrepancies in prior elections, including votes cast by dead people and others whose homes had been destroyed by fire.

In one recent election, precinct workers collected 2,615 provisional ballots but only 201 were actually counted because the rest were not registered and were ineligible to vote, she said.

The bill allows eight forms of photo identification including an Oklahoma driver’s license, identification cards issued by the Department of Public Safety or a federally recognized Indian tribe, a U.S. passport, military and student identification cards and debit or credit cards with photos of the user.

“It’s a minor inconvenience for a small percentage of voters,” Tibbs said of the measure.

But Rep. Al Lindley, D-Oklahoma City, compared the requirement to an illegal poll tax because some of the IDs cost money to obtain.

Rep. John Wright, R-Broken Arrow, said the government should demand a measure of responsibility from citizens in order to restore confidence in the process.

“It’s about the confidence that the people have that the process is one of integrity,” said Rep. Trebor Worthen, R-Oklahoma City.

“There’s no right to be convenient,” said Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa. Sullivan said Oklahomans are asked to show a photo ID each time they board a commercial airplane, cash a check or walk into a federal courthouse.

“It is not too much to ask,” he said.

State election officials have said that a photo ID requirement at polling places will create long lines and additional delays on election day.

State Election Board Secretary Michael Clingman has said implementing the measure will cost $90,000 per election to pay for more than 1,000 more precinct officials to check voter’s photo IDs and try to avoid delays in voting.

If passed by the Senate and signed into law, Oklahoma will join 22 other states that have adopted similar voter ID requirements, Tibbs said.

“It’s proven to be OK,” she said. The House approved a similar measure last year that stalled in the Senate.

The measure is House Bill 2956.

 

0
0
0