WASHINGTON — Responding to concerns that tougher voter identification laws being adopted by many states could disfranchise eligible voters, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen has introduced a bill to allow people without IDs to cast ballots by signing an affidavit instead.
Larsen’s “America Votes Act of 2012” would allow voters without proper ID to attest, under penalty of perjury, that they’re eligible to vote. It also would require election officials to issue them a regular ballot instead of a provisional ballot, which can be disqualified later.
Larsen, a Democrat from Lake Stevens, serves on the House Armed Services and Transportation and Infrastructure committees. But his spokesman said Larsen decided to act because what he views as efforts to restrict voters’ rights.
The bill would override laws in nearly three dozen states that require voters to show some form of identification. In five states — Pennsylvania, Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana and Kansas — voters must present a driver’s license, a passport or other accepted forms of photo ID before they are issued a ballot.
Larsen’s legislation would amend the “Help America Vote Act of 2002,” which was enacted in part because of the scores of disqualified and disputed ballots that roiled the 2000 presidential election between George Bush and Al Gore.
Republicans have sought to beef up ID laws to deter voter fraud. But an in-depth 2007 report by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law found that most fraud allegations have been found to be baseless and that cases of individual voter fraud involving IDs “simply does not exist.”
The Brennan Center estimates one of every 10 Americans of voting age will not have proper ID to vote; the rate is much higher among minorities, the elderly and the poor — which includes traditionally Democratic voters.
In recent months, courts have struck down Wisconsin’s voter ID law as unconstitutional and a federal court sided with the Justice Department in declaring that Texas’s voter ID law is discriminatory. And Florida was ordered to return to the 2012 voting rolls more than 2,600 people whose names were mistakenly purged as being non-citizens.