By Beth Clayton
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–Following the Supreme Court Decision to strike down portions of the Voting Rights Act, many Alabamians are confused about what this means for the state’s voter identification law, set to go into effect during the primary election in 2014.
In previous elections, under the 2003 Voter ID Law, poll workers were allowed to accept 26 different forms of identification, many of which did not contain a photograph of the voter. Previously accepted forms of identification included a social security card, pistol permit or a recent utility bill with a matching address.
Under the new law passed in 2011, a voter is required to show a current, valid photo ID. This ID can be an Alabama driver’s license, a non-drivers ID card, an employee card issued by a branch, department or agency of Alabama, a US passport, a college, university or technical school ID, a US military ID or a valid tribal ID card. The ID must contain the name and photo of the voter and not be expired.
While many voters have become accustomed to voting with their traditional forms of identification, Secretary of State Beth Chapman has released a plan to help voters obtain photo identification cards in time for the elections.
A person without any acceptable form of photo voter ID can receive a free ID by going to the Department of Public Safety in their county and receiving a free non-drivers identification card or by going to their county courthouse Board of Registrars office and receiving a free photo voter ID there. A voter can also visit the Secretary of State’s office in the State Capitol to receive a free photo voter ID,” the Secretary of State’s office said.
Now that the Supreme Court has ruled on the Voting Rights Act, Attorney General Luther Strange says that he believes the state can move forward with implementing the voter ID bill.
The bill was passed in 2011, however, it was never submitted for clearance by the US Justice Department, as required by the Voting Rights Act at the time of its passage.
Before the Supreme Court ruling was announced, Chapman’s Chief of Staff Emily Thompson said the Secretary of State’s office was still working on developing a plan for voter photo identification, which is why the plan had not been submitted for clearance yet.
Under the Secretary of State’s plan, a comment period will begin on July 31 and remain open for 35 days.
At the end of the 35-day period, approximately September 4, “there will be a major media blitz conducted by this office to explain the process and ensure that everyone who needs an ID gets a free one in order to vote,” Chapman said.
According to the plan, the state-issued photo ID cards will remain valid as long as the voter remains registered at the address listed on the card.