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New driver's license ID requirements raise questions

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press

League of Women Voters says rules will make voting tougher.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 - 10:54 am

INDIANAPOLIS — New ID requirements for Indiana driver's licenses will increase the burden already placed on voters by the state's strict voter ID law, the League of Women Voters says.

Hoosiers must show a government- issued photo ID to vote, usually a driver's license or state ID card. But starting Jan. 1, they'll have to present birth certificates, Social Security cards or other documentation to get a license or ID card.

The league, which is appealing a Marion County court's dismissal of a challenge to the voter ID law, said in documents filed Friday with the Indiana Court of Appeals that the requirements recently announced by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles will add to the burden the voter ID law already places on groups such the poor and elderly.

“It shouldn't be this hard to vote. It's one of our most fundamental rights,” said Karen Celestino-Horseman, one of the attorneys for the league.

Women could be especially affected, the group contends. Women who have been repeatedly married or divorced or hyphenated their names will have to document each name change, the league claims. And older married women, who may keep bills in their husband's names, may have trouble providing proof of residency, Celestino-Horseman said.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year upheld the Indiana voter ID law, the nation's most stringent. The 6-3 decision found that the law was reasonable and did not severely burden voters.

But the league filed another lawsuit in June 2008 alleging the law adds to the voting qualifications outlined in the state constitution. The lawsuit, which names Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita as defendant, also claims changes in voting eligibility can be done only by amending the state constitution.

“This is a desperate attempt to legitimize a case that's already been dismissed by one court,” said Rokita's spokesman, Jim Gavin.

“At this point it's only speculation what impact new BMV ID issuance policies would have on our election process,” he said in an e-mail Monday.

BMV officials announced the new one-time document requirements June 8. Motorists will have to bring documents in as their current licenses expire, so the process should be complete by 2016, officials said. Indiana driver's licenses are valid for six years.

Anyone who gets a new license or state ID or renews one after Jan. 1 will have to prove his or her identity, Social Security number, citizenship or immigration status and state residency. They can do that by showing birth certificates or passports, Social Security cards or W2 forms, and bank statements or utility bills issued within 60 days. Driver's licenses will be mailed after applicants' identities are verified.

The agency plans to issue interim state IDs within 30 days of elections to help residents comply with the voter ID law until their regular ID cards are mailed. Commissioner Andy Miller said the BMV confirmed that election officials would accept the interim IDs.

“The BMV has gone to great lengths to make sure these changes do not impact an individual's ability to vote,” Miller said in a prepared statement Monday.

The BMV said it is requiring the documents in an effort to stem identity theft and comply with the 9/11 commission's recommendations and federal law.

But the federal Real ID Act has met strong opposition in several states, and Congress is considering an alternative. Twelve states have rejected Real ID as an unfunded federal mandate, two have refused to implement it without conditions being met and 11 have passed resolutions opposing it, the brief said.

Indiana's voter ID law was designed to take potential changes to the federal ID requirements into account, Gavin said.

Supporters say the law is needed to prevent vote fraud at the polls.