The ACLU of Rhode Island has released materials today advising voters of their rights at the polls as Woonsocket prepares to host the state’s first election under a restrictive photo voter ID law.
Woonsocket’s special election primary to fill House District 49, scheduled for Tuesday, January 21, will be the first election in which Rhode Island voters will be required to show photo identification at the polls. For the past two years, voters were able to use non-photo IDs, such as birth certificates, social security cards or utility bills, to verify their identity.
In order to make voters aware of this new requirement and of their rights when they head to the polls, the ACLU is distributing educational postcards to agencies across Woonsocket outlining the new identification requirements and what voters should do if they encounter a problem at the polls. This information is also available on the ACLU’s website at www.riaclu.org.
The postcard emphasizes that registered voters who are unable to show the required photo identification must still be allowed to vote by being offered a provisional ballot at the polling place. It will be counted as a full ballot after the Board of Canvassers verifies that the signature matches that on the voter’s registration form.
The ACLU and many other civil rights groups opposed to the voter ID law are especially concerned as to how the new photo ID requirement could risk disenfranchising the poor, the elderly, racial minorities and other vulnerable groups. In a report submitted to the legislature last year, the ACLU documented problems that occurred at the polls in 2012 with the less stringent identification requirements in effect then.
The ACLU will be working with like-minded organizations to lobby for the repeal of the voter ID law this year.