By Alison James
Voters hoping to make their voices heard Nov. 4 should act now to make sure they are registered and prepared to provide photo identification to be eligible to vote.
This will be the first general election for which Alabama’s photo ID law will be in effect. Lee County elections manager Robert Garris said the main purpose for the law is “to cut down on voter fraud.”
“(Fraud) is pretty commonplace,” said elections manager Robert Garris, listing instance like voting by deceased people or multiple votes cast by a single person at multiple polling places.
County registrar Becky Bailey, who worked at the polls for 30 years, said fraud used to not be such a big problem.
“We knew everybody back then,” Bailey said. “When we saw people coming, one of us would know them, and we didn’t worry about it … (but) this is the way it should have been the whole time.”
The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 4 election is Oct. 20 to have registration postmarked or delivered to the registrars’ office in the Lee County Courthouse. Eligible non-voters may download a registration form online at www.alabamavotes.gov to mail to the local boards of registrars’ office or visit the registrars’ office in person during their office hours. Registration forms are also available at the Department of Motor Vehicles and satellite offices of the courthouse.
Prospective voters who do not have a photo ID can obtain one for free from the Board of Registrars after they have registered.
“You can register at the time when you come in,” Reed said. “It’s just a voter identification card – it serves no other purpose.”
“You can’t have any other form of identification,” Garris added.
Although opposition to the new law has been widespread on multiple levels, Bailey, Reed and Garris agreed that it will be instrumental in cutting down on fraud and that, with the provision for free photo IDs being provided through the Board, it is not a burdensome requirement for anyone who wishes to vote.
“The purpose of the photo ID law is not to prevent people from exercising their right to vote,” Garris emphasized. “It is to help the polling officials maintain the integrity of the process.”
A voter, according to information provided by Secretary of State Jim Bennett, may receive a photo voter ID at any point during the time leading up to the election, even on Election Day.
Voters who do not have photo ID but are positively identified by two poll workers may still be permitted to vote. Voters who have no photo ID and cannot be identified may vote a provisional ballot.
“I’m of the opinion no one should leave a poll if they feel they want to cast a ballot,” Garris said. “We don’t ever say, ‘No, you can’t vote.’ … Now, what happens with that provisional ballot is a separate issue. There’s a difference between the counting and tallying of votes and voting.”
“If you meet the criteria, your ballot is counted,” Reed agreed.
If a voter is required to vote a provisional ballot due to lack of a photo ID, the voter has until the Friday following the election to get a photo ID and provide it to the board of registrars.
Reed and Bailey also urged current voters who have moved since the last election to update their address and verify their correct polling place. Forms for that process may also be downloaded at www.alabamavotes.gov.
“If you have moved, don’t go to the same place where you used to live and think, ‘Oh, I can just vote here,’” Reed said. “Most cases when you move, your poll location changes as well, and if you go to to where you used to vote and fill out an update form and you don’t go to the correct place, it will not count.”
Voters can view sample ballots at www.alabamavotes.gov.
To learn more about registration or absentee voting, visit www.alabamavotes.gov. To learn more about the photo voter ID requirements, visit www.alabamavoterid.com or call 1-800-274-VOTE.
Further questions can also be directed to the Board of Registrars by calling 737-3635.