Sept. 22, 2005 – Privacy advocates and anti-poverty groups are lining up to fight a single proposal in what is otherwise a widely-hailed and well-received set of recommendations from a bi-partisan federal election commission.
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Headed up by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, the Commission on Federal Election Reform issued a number of recommendations aimed at instilling greater confidence in the nationâ€™s elections.
Top among their advice is that states using electronic voting machines provide a verifiable paper trail. Other reforms include opening voting machine certification to the public and ensuring that all ballot machines are accessible to the disabled
While largely applauded, the Commission also recommended that all voters be required to produce photo identification recognized by the recently passed Real ID Act, a bitter pill for several groups.
The REAL ID Act requires states to verify an individualâ€™s full name, date of birth and Social Security number before issuing a driverâ€™s license.
In a dissenting statement, not published along with the report, Commission member Spencer Overton warned that the photo ID requirement was highly restrictive and expensive. Overton pointed out that the law would come down more heavily on the elderly, the poor, the disabled, African-Americans and Native Americans â€“ all groups that are significantly less likely to have a state-issued photo ID.
"The 2005 Carter-Baker Commission does not and cannot establish that its â€˜Real IDâ€™ requirement would exclude even one fraudulent vote for every 1000 eligible voters excluded," Overton said.
In the report itself, the Commission admitted that "there is no evidence of extensive fraud in US elections or of multiple voting." The Commissioners also acknowledged that voter ID requirements could disenfranchise eligible voters and adversely affect minorities. But they pushed through the proposal anyway, citing the need for public confidence in elections.
For those without a driverâ€™s license, the Commission recommends that states issue a free photo identification.
Privacy advocates also expressed concern over Commission recommendations that states link voter databases containing registrantsâ€™ Social Security numbers, full names and other personal information. "Once created, history has shown that law enforcement, employers, landlords, credit agencies, mortgage brokers and direct mailers will find a way to access, and in all likelihood abuse, those databases," Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Lee Tien said in a press statement.