Senate Bill 1150 failed to garner the 25 votes needed on May 14, 2008 to require Oklahomans to provide proof of identity in order to vote. SB 1150, authored by Senator John Ford, would have required Oklahomans to provide a photo ID, bank statement, government check, or pay check the next time they went to the polls. The ACLU of Oklahoma praised those senators who voted against a voter ID bill.
“Voting is a fundamental right that should be exercised without unnecessary burdens,” said ACLU of Oklahoma Executive Director Joann Bell. “We are grateful to the Senators who understand that requiring proof of identity is essentially requiring Oklahomans to pay to vote.”
The failure of SB 1150 comes on the heels of the US Supreme Court decision upholding Indiana’s voter ID requirement.
“We have incidents of eligible Indiana voters who were unable to vote because of lack of proper identification in that state’s primary,” said ACLU of Oklahoma Legal Director C.S. Thornton. “According to reports, elderly nuns, a college student who had an out of state driver’s license, a newly married woman whose last name did not match the name on her registration were all eligible voters and were all turned away for either lack of identification or improper identification. These factual reports demonstrate what might occur if such legislation would have passed here in Oklahoma.”
The ACLU of Oklahoma is concerned that requiring proof of identity to vote would result in eligible people losing their right to vote. The burden of this requirement would fall disproportionately on eligible minority voters, voters with disabilities, the homeless, and absentee voters. Supporters of this bill argued that requiring proof of identification to vote would curb voter fraud. While election mistakes have occurred, no examples of organized fraud in Oklahoma could be cited.
ID requirements build in too much discretion and uncertainty into the voting process. Deciding whether a voter matches the photo on an ID card is a very subjective process. In addition, if an ID does not contain the voter’s current address or name, which is true of countless Americans who move or marry, he or she would likely be turned away from the polls. SB 1150 would have allowed bank statements or pay checks to substitute for a photo ID but these raise the same discretionary concerns as well as privacy issues.
The vote essentially went down party lines in both houses. Only one Democrat in the House of Representatives voted yes for this bill. “When election reform is not joined by both parties, voters should not have confidence in the bill. Why would we create unnecessary obstacles for people when we have record numbers of people registering to vote this election season,” said Bell.
The ACLU of Oklahoma is grateful to all constituents who contacted their Senators to oppose SB 1150. This victory for individual rights is an example of how people can make a difference.