Just pop in to get your voter ID


Photo (cc) theocean.

Rhode Island’s voter ID law goes into effect this year, and there’s good news, if you don’t have an ID, just pop on over to the Secretary of State’s office to get one.

The Valley Breeze says:

According to Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis, voters will be allowed to use both photo IDs and non-photo IDs this year and next, but starting in 2014, only photo IDs will be accepted.

Visit the Secretary of State’s office at 148 West River St. in Providence, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, to obtain a new ID.

So that’s all well and good if you have a car… Oh, if you have a car you have a licence and don’t need an ID. What if you don’t have a car and live in say, West Warwick?

If you want to be at the Secretary of State’s Office by 8:30am to get your ID, you have to leave West Warwick at 7:00am, ride the 13 bus to Kennedy Plaza, switch to a North Main Street or Charles Street bus at Kennedy Plaza, and then walk a half mile from North Main Street or a third of a mile from Charles Street to the Office on West River Street. That is an hour and a half one way trip. Then, you have to get your ID, however long that takes, and spend an hour and a half going back. This all assumes you’re able to get time away from your job between 8:30am and 4:30pm weekdays.

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Or maybe you’re elderly, live in Dominica Manor on Federal Hill, use a walker to get around, and have no ID. The polling place is in the lobby of the building, the poll workers probably live in the building and see you daily, too bad, you need a voter ID.

Drag your ass and your walker onto the Green Line trolley, head into KP, switch to a Charles Street bus, shuffle along behind your walker the third of a mile from the bus stop on Charles Street to the Secretary of States Office. Then, flip that and go home, careful not to get hit by any of the high speed traffic in the 4 lanes of Charles Street as you cross with your walker to get the inbound bus.

Yes, it is wicked easy to get an ID if you have a car and don’t actually need an ID, if you don’t have an ID, well then it is not so easy. How many people living all over the state need IDs and won’t be able to make it to West River Street during the super convenient hours of 8:30am to 4:30pm weekdays when people are trying to work? People who voted just fine before but now have to expend an inordinate amount of time, energy, and money, to get to an out of the way section of Providence to exercise their right to vote.

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38 Responses to Just pop in to get your voter ID

  1. Runaway Jim January 6, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    I wonder what the constitutionality of the voter ID law is…

  2. Andy January 6, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    Ugh. Good, but so bad. Frustrating. Its the same for most things int our city state, “just drive.”

  3. Dave January 6, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    Due to a law that requires states with a history of discrimination to get approval before implementing laws related to voting changes, the Justice department halted South Carolina’s implementation of their new voter ID law… Considering RI’s history of involvement in the slave trade, perhaps Rhode Island could be stopped from implanting this law, which may stop many from exercising their right to vote.

  4. Jason January 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    But don’t you know all those illegal aliens find a way to come to the polling place by the bus load to throw elections!

  5. Russ January 6, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    You can’t even cash a check without a photo ID, open or utilize a bank account without an ID. If these people are getting Social Security checks, they already have ID. If these people are getting welfare checks, they already have ID. If you pay rent with a check, you have a bank account and already have ID. People need to quit making excuses, because there’s no excuse in this day and age not to have a government-issued photo ID.

    The only people fighting this are those back candidates/politicians who rely on groups like ACORN to register dead people to vote, and then drag illegal aliens in by the droves to vote in the name of those dead people, or allow other people to vote multiple times. This law was long overdue, and everyone who is a legal citizen of this country will not be severely disenfranchised if they have to get a photo ID one time, especially since 99% already have one. So save these pathetic sob stories for someone stupid enough to believe them.

  6. Jef Nickerson January 6, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    Site me one example in Rhode Island of dead people being registered and hordes of “illegals” being trucked in to vote in those dead persons stead, then we can discuss who is stupid enough to believe what.

  7. mangeek January 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

    Sigh. Considering that Democracy is the fundamental core of what we all believe, accuracy is so important to elections, and that we have somewhat-porous borders, I think it actually does make sense to require picture ID at the polls. It’s scary that someone can walk into the polls, say that they’re someone else, and then vote as them (and it does happen).

    That said, Rhode Island could take advantage of our small size and centralized statewide public transit to have a Government Front Desk at Kennedy Plaza, which is only one bus ride away for virtually everyone. The Front Desk could be a place to get your photo taken, have something notarized, Pay any outstanding fees, or use a kiosk/talk to a professional who can direct you to the office you actually need to go to.

    I’m already pretty miffed that we’ve cowed to suburbanization by moving the DMV outside the Urban Core.

  8. Jess January 6, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    Maybe the better question is: How are the names and voting records of those who died unregistered/removed from the registered voter database?

    I think that the contention is not that dead folks are magically appearing in the roles, it’s that they aren’t removed from the roles and the living are voting in their stead.

  9. Jef Nickerson January 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    I moved to the house next door to mine and within months received notice from the board of elections that I needed to update my address. I’m not entirely sure how they found out I moved (I remain in all the same Wards and Districts and whatnot), but they did.

  10. mangeek January 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    Jef, that’s because you’re probably on a watchlist. 🙂

    There’s more to it than just living people voting for dead ones (are the dead people also collecting Social Security?). There ARE people voting illegally, and that’s just as messed-up as someone messing with the votes as they’re being counted. It’s not many, and it’s probably more White Folks Who Don’t Live Where They Say They Do than ‘illegals’, but it exists, nonetheless.

  11. Jef Nickerson January 6, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    I assume the Board of Elections knows I moved because they checked tax records, I filed taxes since I moved. If they are checking tax records, then I imagine they are checking death records too.

  12. Jef Nickerson January 6, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    Also, one does not need an ID to register to vote. So, register under whatever name you want, find a Johnson & Wales student to get you a fake ID in that name, vote.

    Seems easier than waiting for your uncle to die.

  13. mangeek January 6, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    “So, register under whatever name you want, find a Johnson & Wales student to get you a fake ID in that name, vote.”

    That’s a LOT harder than voting as yourself, then walking over to the next precinct and voting as someone else. In your scenario, you’re committing a more seriously-punished crime AND conspiracy.

  14. Jef Nickerson January 6, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    It is not harder than Russ’ scenario of cataloging a list of dead people than rounding up a horde of illegals to vote in their stead. Just get fake IDs and fake registrations for the illegals, easy peasy.

    I’ve just foiled voter ID, a solution looking for a problem.

    How many elections have come undone by people voting in one place then going to another precinct and voting again? Has any candidate ever contested an election based on this behavior?

  15. Dave January 6, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

    The fact is there is no need to do this now. There’s no evidence of any wrong doing on anyone’s part–nobody is making fake JWU IDs or trucking in illegal immigrants. What is, in fact, the most sinister part of all this is that it creates/reinforces an irrational fear that there is an army of “illegals” who are going to destroy American democracy–take jobs, rob, rape and kill your family. All this does is stoke the flames of racism and hatred. If that is the goal then this law achieves that quite nicely.

  16. barry January 6, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    I’ve been a poll worker and was originally surprised about the loose controls. For example, we’re supposed to ask for addresses, and see if it matches the record, but I know some poll workers state the address themselves, and ask if it is correct.

    There are tradeoffs. It is important to have confidence in election procedures, and though there is NO evidence of significant “Acorn” fraud, there is real evidence of disenfranchising minority voters, both historically in Jim Crow days, but more recently too, such as in 2000 Florida where large numbers were dropped from the voting rolls, and inadequate facilities in their districts led to excessive lines and folks giving up (alleged in 2004 Ohio too).

    Here, my town, North Providence, was reported to have the highest % of dead voters still on the rolls and this does create potential for abuse. And we do have a system of provional ballots that allow those without IDs to vote.

    But I suspect the new system will add to lines and delays, frustrating some. Provisional ballots might not even be counted if it couldn’t affect the election outcome. And even if only 1% don’t already have photo IDs, that is still going to be thousands of people.

    Bottom line for me: lets see what happens in 2012 and re-assess.

  17. mangeek January 6, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    “it creates/reinforces an irrational fear that there is an army of “illegals” who are going to destroy American democracy-take jobs, rob, rape and kill your family. All this does is stoke the flames of racism and hatred. If that is the goal then this law achieves that quite nicely.”

    I don’t think it does at all. In fact, this could be a simple, easy way to put this part of the whole issue to rest. The talk-radio talking points on illegal immigration aren’t of any real concern. There are legitimate issues around immigration control that are much more important, like how to teach classes where 1/3rd aren’t fluent in English, public safety regarding where to find people, taxes, etc.

    I’m really sorry, but I don’t like the idea that Any Old Joe can walk into a polling place knowing my name and address to exercise *the most fundamental right* I have as a citizen. Is it so hard to flash an ID? Given what’s at stake and how much effort goes into ensuring the TOTAL accuracy of the democratic process, identification verification seems like a no-brainer. The first time I was able to vote I was STUNNED that I didn’t need any ID.

    I have a serious question for the anti-side of this argument: Do you think people who are here but aren’t citizens should be able to vote? If there was a bill allowing anyone who can show that they reside here (legally or not) to register to vote, would you support it? I’m not going to judge you on it, I’m really just curious.

  18. Tony P January 6, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

    You can get to the SOS office via the following routes on RIPTA:

    Routes 99, 52, 53, and 54. The 99 runs by that section about every 11 minutes.

    The 5x buses are on longer schedules. But there’s an 8:33AM #53 from Kennedy Plaza Stop Q.

  19. Dave January 6, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

    “Given what’s at stake and how much effort goes into ensuring the TOTAL accuracy of the democratic process, identification verification seems like a no-brainer. The first time I was able to vote I was STUNNED that I didn’t need any ID.”

    Mangeek, I don’t mean to say that you, personally, aim to “fan the flames” of racism. But the fact is there is a wave of anti-immigrant (illegal or not) ideology spreading across the country, and this is a distraction that is completely irrational. When people are made to be scared they make bad decisions (think: yellow cake). There is no clear and present danger that voter fraud is occurring on a large scale. While it is prudent to prevent that from happening in the future, it isn’t wise to implement something without ensuring that people with the right to vote are given their right. It would be a mistake to create an imperfect voter ID system when you can’t ensure it won’t disenfranchise voters. One thing that hasn’t even been mentioned is the prospect of intimidation and racial profiling at polling places.

    I mean, honestly, if people are so worried about American democracy then look no further than Citizens United and the resulting Super PACs. That is the single biggest threat to American democracy, the buying and selling of elections by corporations (I’ve never met a human corporation that I can remember). That’s the issue we should focus on, not this phantom army of illegal voters lurking in the dark. It’s all about priorities.

    As for your final question: “If there was a bill allowing anyone who can show that they reside here (legally or not) to register to vote, would you support it?”

    I am absolutely in support of amnesty for undocumented people, living in this country, who are law abiding. They should be given the opportunity to become citizens and the voting privileges that come with it. But, I’d rather not get into a back and forth about that issue, so I respectively will make that my last word.

  20. Jef Nickerson January 6, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    I think anyone who resides in Rhode Island, is 18 years of age, and is not currently incarcerated should be able to vote in local and state elections, yes. The feds would never allow it, and maybe we should reserve citizenship as a barrier for voting in Federal elections, the concept is so foreign (so to speak) I don’t even know how to feel about it, but I don’t think sworn citizenship should be a barrier to participation in the local and state political process.

    @Tony P. Those bus schedules are all well and good, if you don’t live in Westerly, or Burrillville, or Little Compton…

  21. Andrew I January 7, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    Undocumented immigrants are scrupulous about avoiding trouble with officialdom. To imagine that any go to a polling place to pull a risky move is absurd.

    Even with turnout at 50%, half the votes cast by impostors who voted early in the day would come under scrutiny when the real voters arrive. Similarly, an imposter who walks in late in the day has half a chance of being told “You already voted.” This is simply not happening. Voter ID is a Jim Crow Law. Voter Impersonation is sheer fiction invented to plausibly deny the law’s real Jim Crow intent.

    Shame on R.I.

  22. Tony P January 7, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    The law when examined closely is strictly designed to disenfranchise voters. All the voter ID laws in the U.S. should be struck down. It is essentially a poll tax.

  23. Andrew January 7, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    …others have mentioned that there are hardly any prosecutable or prosecuted cases of the type of voter fraud these ID laws are meant to stop. It’s a solution without a real problem, when the laws don’t address the one area of the voting system that is regularly abused: absentee ballots. These things together should make anyone raise a hairy eyeball at this law. Why should we make it harder to vote (or if you want to be cynical, why should we make it harder for Democratic constituencies to vote)?

  24. David January 8, 2012 at 1:18 am #

    “I think anyone who resides in Rhode Island, is 18 years of age, and is not currently incarcerated should be able to vote in local and state elections, yes. The feds would never allow it, and maybe we should reserve citizenship as a barrier for voting in Federal elections, the concept is so foreign (so to speak) I don’t even know how to feel about it, but I don’t think sworn citizenship should be a barrier to participation in the local and state political process.”

    Jef major kudos for this point of view. I know this whole thing is getting sidetracked but I just want to add that as it stands now most immigrants who are law abiding permanent residents still have to pay $800 + to become a citizen to be allowed to vote. That in of itself is also putting a huge barrier from people who have lived in this country long enough to consider it home and want to be able to vote. A lot of these people are working class people and even if they wanted to vote $800 bucks for that right is just too much of an expense to afford.

    Anyway I could go on and on, but it’s just things like this get added on and on and on and that 1 or 2% of the population that is disenfranchised becomes 4%, another election cycle another small percentage becomes disenfranchised and that becomes 7 or 8%. Every little bit is adding to the amount of people who isn’t able to vote and that is a dangerous slippery slope to continue down. Seriously how long until the Tea Party Nation’s president ideal of only letting property owners vote becomes a more mainstream idea? These things need to be stamped out before more and more people start losing their right to vote.

  25. Chris Barnett January 11, 2012 at 9:10 am #

    Voters do not have to visit the Secretary of State’s Providence office to receive a Voter ID. Our mobile units will visit town halls, senior centers and community centers among other places. We’ll go where the voters are.
    No eligible voter will be turned away at the polls. Even if you don’t bring an ID, you can vote using the standard provisional ballot.
    More info about Voter ID is posted on our website.
    PS: In 2008, we introduced legislation that requires the state Department of Health to share Death Certificate information with us electronically. We maintain the statewide voter registration database. The Death Certificate data is run against the statewide voter rolls. Every month voter registrations are canceled based on the official report of deaths. Here’s some data I have at my fingertips — the registrations of 8,358 voters were canceled from 01/01/2010 to 03/31/2011.

  26. Peter Brassard January 11, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

    There are thousands of homeless people in Rhode Island. How would voter registration work for homeless people that don’t drive and that haven’t been staying is a non-profit or government shelter? Many just stay on the streets. They may use soup kitchens, such as Amos House. Could their attendance at such a facility be used to establish residency?

  27. Andrew January 12, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    Chris, what are the statistics for provisional ballots actually being counted in earlier elections? Every time I visit my polling place, at least one voter in line with me is asked to vote using a provisional ballot.

  28. mangeek January 12, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    “Voter ID is a Jim Crow Law. Voter Impersonation is sheer fiction invented to plausibly deny the law’s real Jim Crow intent.”

    It actually happened to one of our legislators and her daughter.

    It’s also happeing here, one of the most liberal, least racist states in the nation, where there aren’t any Republicans in power, at a time when the people who are in power are farther left than we’ve seen in decades.

    This is going to cut both ways, and the folks over at that conservative blog had an idea why this would pass in Rhode Island: It will actually affect MANY more ‘beach house’ suburban Republicans here than illegal immigrants. This could actually shift the vote farther to the left, in their opinion.

  29. Kevin January 12, 2012 at 5:43 pm #….go to this site…search NH voter fraud. You’ll find a great video. Enough said.

    Get an ID and shut up.

  30. Andrew January 12, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    It doesn’t take James O’Keefe to “expose” the fact that dead people are on the voting roles. The burden of having accurate voting roles should be on the election board, NOT on the voter, especially when we’ve been bemoaning the lack of voter participation for years!

  31. Runaway Jim January 13, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    Kevin – Why is it my problem if the election board can’t get their shit together and figure out a way to get the dead people off the voter rolls? Oh right, it’s not my problem. It’s their problem. They need to take care of that. Not me. I’m still curious what the constitutionality of this law is…

  32. Dave January 13, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    “The Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union says a new state law requiring identification at the polls doesn’t do enough to help voters who don’t have a driver’s license or other photo ID.

    The ACLU and nine other groups on Friday wrote to state election officials urging them to revise the rules to make it easier for homeless, disabled, elderly and poor voters to qualify for free voter ID cards.

    Starting in 2014 voters must present a government photo ID at the polls. Those without photo IDs may ask the state for a free voter ID, but they’ll have to present other identity documents to get one.”

  33. mangeek January 13, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    My girlfriend works with people who are disabled, on the edge of homelessness (they don’t have a place to call their own, but she runs the shelter), poor, largely illiterate, and certainly without cars.

    These people spend a LOT of time taking RIPTA to various government offices, and they all have IDs.

    Should we make it easier to get an ID, yes. Should we sacrifice authentication/identification at the polls to cover corner-cases? I don’t think so.

    I guess the numbers in the Fall 2012 elections will show us how this affects things.

  34. Andrew January 13, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    The problem with “let’s just wait and see what happens in the next few elections” is that if people are disenfranchised (and I bet they will be), those who enacted these voter ID laws won’t just say, “whoops, we made a big mistake that caused a lot of poor people, elderly, minorities, and Democrats to become disenfranchised.” The Federal government will need to step in, and if Republicans are in office, it won’t.

    So, then it’s up to the courts, and we know how long it takes for things to be settled in the courts. How many election cycles will these people have to be disenfranchised?

    That is, if data is even collected about the numbers of people turned away at the polls. How will the disenfranchised be counted? Through the numbers of provisional ballots? By exit polls? The people who are affected by this law are already marginal to society, hardly ever counted.

  35. Jef Nickerson January 19, 2012 at 9:09 am # Rep. Lima to Introduce Voter ID Repeal Legislation

    Watch for Rep. Charlene Lima to introduce legislation today to repeal the Voter ID bill that passed last session and was signed by Governor Chafee. She has been circulating the legislation in the House and has about 15 co-sponsors. It will likely be coming today in tandem with her press statement which was not completed yesterday.

  36. Dave January 20, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    Lima seeks repeal of voter ID


    PROVIDENCE — A Democratic state lawmaker from Cranston is proposing a repeal of Rhode Island’s controversial new voter-identification requirements, which were approved last year and take effect for the first time during the state’s April 24 presidential primary.

    State Rep. Charlene Lima says the law, which requires voters to show some form of ID at the polls this year, was “ill-advised” and “unneeded.”

    She argues that the new requirements will disenfranchise the elderly, the poor and minorities, who she said will have difficulty obtaining the required identification. “It’s hard enough to get people to vote as it is,” Lima said.

    Local community organizations – notably the NAACP and the Rhode Island Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union - have cited similar concerns.

    But at least one recent national study, by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law, has said the Rhode Island statute is “significantly less restrictive” than other voting laws passed in 2011.

    Lima says she’s also concerned about the law’s financial burden: according to a recent study released by the Democratic National Committee, the Rhode Island law will cost the state “between $1.6 million and $4.9 million” to implement.

    Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis has said public outreach and the issuance of free, state-authorized voter IDs to eligible voters will cost about $150,000 this year.

    Starting in 2012, the state will require voters to provide ID such as a birth certificate, a Social Security card or a government-issued medical card. By 2014, the state will require photo ID such as a Rhode Island driver’s license, a military ID, a college ID, a U.S. passport, or a U.S. or a state-issued identification card.

  37. BicycleFace March 13, 2012 at 7:34 am #

    Update: looks like judges are doing the right thing and striking down voter ID laws across the country. The judge who struck down the law in the latest Wisconsin case said this:

    The judge, Richard Niess, wrote that the people most affected by the law “would consist of those struggling souls” who are qualified to vote but lack the financial or physical resources to get an ID card. What right does the government have, he wrote, to “simply cast aside the inherent suffrage rights of any qualified elector” in the hopes of preventing some unqualified people from voting?


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