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February 27, 2009

Senate awaits voter ID bill

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A proposal that would require voters to show "proof of identity" before casting their ballots has cleared a legislative committee and is expected to be heard by the full state Senate next week.

But not every lawmaker is thrilled with the proposal.

Senate Bill 4, by Bartlesville Republican John Ford, would require voters to provide documents that include the voter's name and picture prior to voting in an election. Ford's bill also requires the identification be issued by the United States, the State of Oklahoma or a federally recognized Indian Tribe or Nation. Individuals who do not have any recognized form of identification may show their county-issued Voter ID card.

Ford said the use of photo identification is prevalent today and, therefore, should be required in voting.

"Valid identification is required in our daily activities, such as writing a check, boarding a plane or even getting a library card in some states," he said. "So when it comes to voters deciding who will run our state and our nation and what laws will govern our citizens, it is prudent to verify the identification of voters at the polls.

However, state Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman, said Ford and other Republican legislators are using the bill to try to reduce access to the ballot box.

"The GOP are methodically and systematically reducing access for voters," he said. "This year they've killed bills such as same day voting-registration and bills to extend the state's early voting period. The Republicans didn't want non-traditional voters -- such as those people with jobs at night -- going to the polls. They are torpedoing these things."

Sparks also questioned Ford's claim that Senate Bill 4 was necessary because of "many fraudulent registrations" which happened during last fall's election. "There is no evidence anywhere in the state of people using fraudulent identification to vote," he said. "It's not there."

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