Secretary of State Jim Bennett said the first election using the new photo voter ID law at the polls was a great start to the implementation of the program. Of the over 600,000 voters that came to the polls on June 3rd, his office has only received only a few calls concerning issues with the new law.
"There were some calls and concerns but nothing that cannot be fixed with educational outreach which we plan to continue before the July run-off and the November general election," Bennett said. "All in all, we believe the program worked and our efforts to ensure that those who needed a free photo voter ID card had the opportunity to receive one were positive."
Bennett said that certain groups have pointed out in news articles some instances of people being "turned away" from the polls for lack of photo ID. In fact, Bennett said, such persons under the law would not be turned away and must be offered a provisional ballot which is what the law requires if the proper photo ID is not produced.
"Certainly we regret any time that a voter is not able to cast a regular ballot. However, there are provisions in the law for someone who does not have an acceptable form of photo ID to vote," he added.
Bennett said that every voter also has the opportunity to go to their local Board of Registrars even on Election Day to receive a free photo voter ID.
"We have met and worked with various groups like the NAACP since the beginning of the implementation process and they have been helpful in getting the word out about the new photo voter ID requirement," he added. "We also conducted an extensive media campaign to inform voters and made 93 stops with mobile photo units travelling 12,000 miles around the state."
Bennett said another way a voter without a photo ID can vote a regular ballot would be if the voter could be positively identified by two election workers. This portion of the law has been called into question by some groups recently.
"This is a failsafe system pre-cleared by the Justice Department back in 2003," Bennett added. "It was adopted as a means to help citizens living in rural areas where most people know one another."
The system was put in place when Nancy Worley, the current state Democratic Party chairman, was secretary of state.
Bennett said some people see racial motivations behind any change in election law. "Some out-of-state critics may think the worst about Alabama but the truth is our state manages our elections well and we work very hard to ensure that every one who can vote gets that opportunity."
"I have no intention of interpreting this law to make it into something the legislature never intended it to be," said Bennett.
He said most Alabamians think the Legislature made the correct call to add the state to a growing list of states requiring valid photo IDs at the polls.