N.J. Democrats Protest Laws Requiring Photo ID At Polls

NJ.com — Thursday, August 16, 2012

By Matt Friedman / Statehouse Bureau

WEST ORANGE — Three Democratic lawmakers and a liberal watchdog group this morning protested laws around the country requiring voters show photo identification at the polls as thinly-veiled attempts to disenfranchise the poor, elderly and minority voters.

"Clearly this series of laws were done with one reason: To keep people that were going to vote a certain way from voting," said Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex), who was joined by Assemblywomen Mila Jasey (D-Essex) and Grace Spencer (D-Essex) and staff from New Jersey Citizen Action at a senior citizens' apartment building.

McKeon compared the laws to past poll taxes and other restrictions meant to keep African-Americans from voting in the South.

"Here we are in 2012, back to the future if you will," said McKeon.

New Jersey does not require voters to show identification, although three Republican lawmakers from Ocean County — state Sen. Christopher Connors and Assembly members Brian Rumpf and DiAnne Gove — have introduced a measure that would require all voters to show a state or federal photo ID. The Senate and Assembly, however, are controlled by Democrats unlikely to move such legislation, which critics say would disproportionately affect groups that vote for their party.

But yesterday in neighboring Pennsylvania, a state judge upheld a Republican-backed voter ID law meant to go into effect in time for the Nov. 6 presidential election. Thirty states have laws in place that require all voters to show ID, though about half don't requires photos and the strictness varies state to state, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Jasey said there are virtually no proven cases of in-person voter fraud around the country.

"There are more shark attacks in Florida than there are cases of voter fraud that can be substantiated," she said.

Although McKeon and Jasey acknowledged the chances of the bill passing are slim with Democrats in control of the Legislature, they said things could change if Republicans were to take over or if there was some other political shift.

"This is dangerous," she said. "This is serious and it's something we must pay attention to because unfortunately it's something that could happen here."

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