Voter I.D. requirement won?t affect turnout

By By Kelly O?Neill

By Kelly O?Neill

If you’re planning on voting in the next election cycle, then plan on bringing your I.D. with you. The new Voter Identification for Elections law will require all voters to present a valid form of identification in order to vote in person.

Although the change seems simple enough, it has been the subject of much debate, and many are worried that the new law will disenfranchise would-be voters and result in a decrease in voter turnout.

Utahns have three options for casting their ballots: by mail, voting early in person or voting on Election Day in person.

Identification has always been a requirement for early voting, but Utah House Bill 126 has extended this requirement to Election Day voters. Voters must present some form of government-issued identification that has their name and photograph. If voters don’t have this kind of I.D., they can provide two documents with their name and voting precinct. This includes utility bills, birth certificates, Social Security cards or bank statements. Finally, if voters forget any form of I.D. at the polls, they can still cast their votes as provisional ballots as long as they provide proper identification within five days.

Although the reasoning behind the law has been said to be either preventing illegal immigrants from casting their ballots or eliminating voter fraud, Ryan Cowley, chief deputy clerk of Summit County, said it is simply “to ensure that the person who shows up (at the polls) proves who they say they are.”

Scott Hogensen, chief deputy clerk auditor of Utah County, added that the Legislature “wanted to have consistency between the requirements for early voting and Election Day voting.”

Whatever the reasoning, county government officials don’t seem too concerned that the new law will harm voter turnout.

“I think it will stay about the same,” said Pat Beckstead, election director of Davis County. “I’m confident it won’t deter voters.”

Asking people to show proof of their identity is not a radical concept in the United States. We have to prove who we are to board a plane, borrow a book from a library and even to purchase a family-sized package of toilet paper from Costco. Although there is concern that asking for I.D. will cast a feeling of distrust upon voters, many people have been wondering why they haven’t been asked for I.D. all along.

“We have found that people are very willing and even glad when we ask them for their I.D.s during early voting,” Beckstead said. “People often ask us why we are not asking for I.D.s (on Election Day).”

In addition to a cooperative public, Beckstead also believes the new requirement will help elections run more smoothly as it does for early voting.

“It speeds up the line because poll workers can see the name right in front of them,” he said.

Seeing a printed name is admittedly much easier than listening to a voter spell out a name and trying to find it on the registration list at the same time.

Utah County was the first to hold an election under the constraints of the new law.
“About 6,000 people came to vote and only three out of the 6,000 didn’t have their I.D.s,” Hogensen said. Although things ran smoothly in Utah County in June, Hogensen said the 2009 municipal elections will be a whole different ball game.

“We’ll see what happens with the new election cycle, then we’ll take what we’ve learned from it and come up with new ideas to make it more efficient in 2010,” he said.
Information and awareness is crucial when it comes to changing statewide election laws. If voters are prepared with their proper ID, then we should have a quick and efficient Election Day.