Controversial Voter ID law Facing Changes -- and Maybe Repeal

Feb 28, 2013

Rhode Island's controversial Voter ID law -- which attracted a a lot of attention after it passed in 2011 -- could be headed for changes, including repeal.

A bill sponsored by Senator Gayle Goldin (D-Providence)  to repeal the law is set to be discussed during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing later today.

House spokesman Larry Berman says Speaker Gordon Fox wants to consider testimony from state election officials during House Oversight Committee hearings before deciding on a course of action (the time to check voter IDs was cited among a number of factors in lengthy voting delays at one Providence polling place last year).  Berman says the potential options range from permitting voters to use any kind of ID to outright repeal of the Voter ID law.

The Voter ID law passed in 2011 is being implemented in multiple election cycles. Voters were able to use a variety of non-photo IDs starting in 2012. As the law currently stands, photo IDs will be required to vote starting in 2014.

Rhode Island's law attracted out of town interest since Voter ID is more commonly associated with Republicans. One of the law's chief supporters in the House, conservative Woonsocket Democrat Jon Brien, lost his seat last year.

Supporters say Voter ID is needed to help protect a cherished American right. Opponents say such laws discriminate against minority and elderly voters. The issue was more tangled in Rhode Island, thanks in part to political rivalries between Latinos and African-Americans.