New federal voting laws will affect all

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 21, 2002

Legislations regarding federal elections will result in changes in every state polling site next year, and the changes will include requiring some first-time voters to show identification with their name and address.

Secretary of State Jim Bennett said he believes the rule changes will eventually lead to a requirement that all voters present their IDs.

The Senate gave approval to the bill on Wednesday, and now the bill will go to President Bush. The bill was prompted by various election-related problems in Florida and Bush has said he intends to sign it into law. The bill will not apply for the November election this year.

The bill will require voters who registered by mail to show their ID the first time they vote, and the ID can be a photo ID, a utility bill or other types of government documents.

Covington County Probate Judge Sherry R. Phillips said she personally has no problem with the possibility of voter identification, but only if it is done in the proper fashion.

"I see no problem (with voter ID), but I think they need to expand the system to address every individual situation," said Phillips. "If there are other types of voter ID besides just driver's licenses it would be better."

She added that she is not overly confident about the possibility of voter ID as it has failed several times in the past.

In Alabama, there are about 70,000 mailed registrations in an election year and about 15,000 in a non-election year, according to Bennett.

Every year since 1989, the state Legislature has considered requiring voter ID, but Bennett has said he would like to see the ID rule apply to everyone as to eliminate any possible confusion.

Under the legislation, each of the state's 2,214 polling places must have one voting machine accessible to physically disabled persons, including the blind, said Bennett. The legislation will also require voting systems that will notify voters of an error in their ballots, and allow them to correct the problem.

This will probably dictate that each polling place have an optical scanner so that problems can be detected immediately and voters can be notified of the problem.

Optical scanners are used by 63 of 67 counties, but Bennett has said he doesn't know how many counties have them in each polling site, or how many transport ballots to the courthouse to run them through a scanner.