TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Some progressive Democrats want to make sure the state doesn't follow the lead of six other states and enact strict new voter ID laws they say could lead to suppression at the polls.
Democratic Assemblyman John McKeon, of Essex County, said Thursday the laws, requiring voters to present photo identification, are thinly veiled attempts to repress votes primarily from poor, Democratic constituencies. Such laws could hurt President Barack Obama's re-election bid because they strike at his support base.
"Twenty-one million Americans don't have photo IDs, and two-thirds of that 21 million come from core Democratic constituencies," McKeon said. "This shouldn't be a partisan issue ... we should be finding ways to get more people to exercise this precious right to vote, not suppressing it."
A judge this week refused to block a Pennsylvania law requiring voters to show photo ID at the ballot box. The case is being appealed.
The legislation requires voters to present documentation as proof of identification before voting. The most common accepted photo ID would be a state driver's license. Those who don't drive could get non-driver's identification cards through the Division of Motor Vehicles.
Proponents of such bills say they guard against voter fraud. But McKeon said he's never heard of a case of in-person voter fraud at a polling station.
In New Jersey, Republican-sponsored voter ID bills have stalled in the Legislature. They are unlikely to advance in the Democrat-led Senate and Assembly.
Five of the 12 most hotly contested states in the November presidential election have passed stricter voter ID laws, which opponents say make voting more difficult for students, minorities, low-income residents and people with disabilities, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University law school, a nonpartisan public policy institute.
"Every voter should demonstrate that they are who they say they are before voting," the center says on its website. "That form of proof should not include restrictive documentation requirements like overly burdensome photo ID or redundant proof of citizenship requirements that serve to block millions of eligible American citizens from voting."