Rhode Island ACLU executive director Steven Brown issued the following statement today in response to Governor Lincoln Chafee’s signing into law a bill requiring voters to present photo identification in order to vote at the polls:

“By enacting a voter ID law, Rhode Island has taken a giant step backward   in the long and continuing struggle for voting equality.  Studies have made clear that a voter ID requirement will have a disproportionate and unfair impact on the poor, racial and ethnic minorities, senior citizens and voters with disabilities.

“Over the years, the most consistent cries of voting misconduct in Rhode Island have arisen in the context of absentee ballots, something that would not in any way be addressed by a polling place ID requirement. Instead, the new law erects a completely unnecessary barrier to voting solely in order to address a non-existent problem of in-person voter fraud.

“This is a sadly ironic coda to yesterday’s holiday celebration. The right to vote is the most important civil right of all. State officials should be in the business of encouraging full participation of our citizenry in the electoral process, not developing new ways to limit it. In fact, in recent months, Governors in five states have vetoed photo ID laws, citing their adverse impact on the democratic process. We are extremely disappointed that Governor Chafee did not join his colleagues from those states in rejecting this discriminatory and anti-democratic legislation."

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