Potential battles at polling places around the country, including here in Colorado, have been heating up for months. Voter protection volunteers– those mostly on the right looking to guard against fraud and those mostly on the left looking to guard against voter intimidation– have already reported they will be watching for polling place irregularities in counties across Colorado tomorrow. At very least, those volunteers and all registered voters in Colorado should know that voters do not need to show photo identification in order to cast their ballots in this state. Polling place staff can accept photo IDs but they must also, for example, accept as legitimate identification current utility bills, bank statements and paychecks.
The fact is, much of the confusion behind any coming polling place standoffs will be tied to questions about voter ID requirements. That’s the case partly because new voter ID laws have passed in states around the country this year and partly because those laws vary a great deal state to state and partly because the arguments around the laws are deeply politicized and partly because the training of poll-watching volunteers and polling-place election judges in every state of the Union is fairly rushed and unsupervised. None of these Americans are paid to do their polling-place work full-time. What’s more, it’s simply true that some of the watchers at the polls tomorrow will be looking for trouble where there probably is none.
HeadCount is a New York-based voter registration and election integrity organization that seeks to expand democratic participation through music and the music industry. It has produced a good online map listing voter ID requirements around the country. (Click on the image below to get to the map website.)
From the HeadCount Website:
Voter ID Requirements – Colorado
Do 1st time voters need ID?: Yes
Do all voters need ID?: Yes
Student ID accepted?: Yes, if it has a photograph of the eligible elector issued and was by an institute of higher education in Colorado
What forms of ID are acceptable?
A valid Colorado driver’s license;
A valid identification card issued by the Department of Revenue;
A valid U.S. passport;
A valid employee identification card with a photograph of the eligible elector issued by any branch, department, agency, or entity of the United States government or of this state, or by any county, municipality, board, authority, or other political subdivision of this state;
A valid pilot’s license issued by the federal aviation administration or other authorized agency of the United States;
A valid U.S. military identification card with a photograph of the eligible elector (may have an out of state address);
A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the elector. Where a document must be current it means that the date of the document is within 60 days of the date submitted for identification unless the document states a longer billing cycle. For example:
A cable bill or telephone bill,
Documentation from a public institution of higher education in Colorado containing at least the name, date of birth, and legal residence address of the student elector,
A paycheck from a government institution or private company, or
A Certificate of Degree of Indian or Alaskan Native Blood.
A valid Medicare or Medicaid card issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (formerly the United States Health Care Financing Administration);
A certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate for the elector issued in the United States;
Certified documentation of naturalization;
A valid veteran identification card issued by the United States department of veterans affairs veterans health administration with a photograph of the eligible elector.
A valid identification card issued by a federally recognized tribal government certifying tribal membership.
A letter from an administrator of a group residential facility certifying that the elector is a resident of the facility
A valid student identification card with a photograph of the eligible elector issued by an institute of higher education in Colorado
If you do not have ID, you may cast a Provisional Ballot.
A similar map and information is available at the National Conference of State Legislatures website.
In Colorado, the right-leaning group Colorado Voter Protection will be out in force at polling places tomorrow, looking to prevent fraud. That group leaned heavily in its trainings on controversial Houston-based group True the Vote. Progressive voter protection groups like Common Cause have pointed out errors in the True the Vote training material used in Colorado that Common Cause believes might lead to voter intimidation and erroneous accusations about voter eligibility.
Common Cause has joined a coalition of similar left-leaning groups to update eight-year-old organization JustVote! The coalition provides voter information at its website and has trained 400 of what it is calling “voting heroes” to help voters navigate polling places and report potential voting problems across the state. JustVote! has set up two hotlines for Colorado residents, an English-language line at 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) and a Spanish-language line at 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682).
In the United States, voter fraud– that is, fraud committed by individual voters– is statistically non-existent. A five-year Bush Justice Department effort to root out voter fraud found only 86 instances in a period where 300 million votes were cast. More than that, in-person voter impersonation fraud, the only kind of fraud voter ID laws work to prevent, constituted a fraction of any cases reported, much less prosecuted. It is election fraud that is the more serious problem, where campaign and government officials stuff ballot boxes or stow away votes or tamper with electronic voting machines.
If your right to vote is challenged, call a hotline. Don’t get turned away at the polls.
[ Image by moofbong via Flickr ]