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The debate over photo voter ID rages on as Alabama’s law goes into effect

Voting Booths

Republicans delivered on a campaign promise in 2011 by passing a law requiring Alabama voters to show a photo ID before being allowed to vote. The law finally goes into effect for this year’s primary elections, which are set to take place June 3.

Numerous types of photo IDs can be used by voters, including an Alabama driver’s license or non-driver ID, college ID, military ID, government employee ID, federal ID or passport. However, the Alabama Secretary of State’s office said today that they believe roughly 250,000 adults in the state do not currently have any form of photo identification.

For those folks, the State of Alabama is offering a free voter ID, which can be obtained at any local county board of registrars’ or Dept. of Public Safety office or at the secretary of state’s headquarters in Montgomery. Forms of non-photo ID that can be used to obtain a free photo ID include most IDs with a person’s full legal name and date of birth. Fishing and hunting licenses, social security cards, birth certificates, marriage records, military records, Medicaid and Medicare documents and school transcripts are all acceptable.

Vans from the secretary of state’s office will also be fanning out across the state in the coming weeks to deliver IDs to individuals who cannot make it to the local offices. A schedule for the van deployments will be released in the days ahead.

But even as Alabama’s photo ID law goes into effect, the national debate surrounding the politics behind voter ID rages on.

Liberals continue to say voter ID laws are an assault on the voting rights of minorities, while conservatives say its a necessary step to ensure the sanctity of elections.

Here’s a brief timeline of some notable voter-ID related events that have taken place over the last couple of years.

• On June 10, 2011, the Alabama legislature on the final day of the 2011 session passed a law requiring Alabamians to show photo ID at the polls before voting.

• On March 5, 2012, a large crowd of Alabamians led by MSNBC pundit and renowned race baiter Al Sharpton protested the voter ID law.

“How do you justify Alabama’s new voter laws when widespread fraud just doesn’t exist?” Sharpton asked Republican State Rep. Jay Love.

“Well, I’ll disagree with you, in the last three years, we’ve had three people convicted of voter fraud in Alabama,” Love responded.

“Thousands of those people can’t vote because of three people in the last three years?” Sharpton shot back. “Because they don`t have state ID, they don’t drive, they don’t have passports. They will not be able to vote.”

Love rebutted, “I don’t know of anybody that will be denied the right to vote. And we provide a free state ID in Alabama for those individuals that don’t have a driver’s license.”

• On March 12, 2012, the US Justice Department blocked a photo ID law from going into effect in Texas.

“There is no proof that our elections are marred by in-person voter fraud,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.

• On April 9, 2012, James O’Keefe, a conservative activists well known for his unique brand hidden-camera journalism, posted a video proving he could easily get poll workers to give him ballots for political celebrities.

“You’re on our list and that’s who you say you are — so you’re ok,” a polling work told O’Keefe as he attempted to vote as “Eric Holder.”

• On August 28, 2012, 1,431 votes were cast in a municipal election in Uniontown, Ala., which only had 1,140 people over the age of 18 living in the town at the time.

When asked by the Tuscaloosa News about the number of registered voters compared with the town’s population, the Uniontown city clerk and election manager replied, “I haven’t given it a thought.”

• On June 17, 2013, the US Supreme Court ruled that states cannot require proof of citizenship for an individual to be added to the voter rolls.

“[This] Court ruling marks an important victory for voters… across the nation whose right to vote has been under attack with discriminatory voter identification laws that have been enacted in states like Arizona, Alabama and Georgia,” U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-AL07, said in a statement after the ruling.

• But barely a week later, On June 25, 2013, the US Supreme Court ruled Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional in Shelby County v. Holder. That ruling freed from federal oversight states that previously had to have changes to their voting laws cleared by the US Justice Department, effectively ending the Obama DOJ’s fight against state voter ID laws.

“The Alabama of today is vastly different than the one of a half century ago, and the time for us to be freed from the burden of federal oversight is long overdue,” Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard said in reaction to the Court’s ruling. “Today’s ruling clearly states that our constitutional rights as Alabamians take precedence over the wants and whims of liberal Justice Department bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. Starting today, Alabama will be able determine its own destiny when it comes to campaigns, elections and voting procedures in our state.”

• On Feb. 25, 2014, Vice President Joe Biden said he hopes Congress will “modernize” the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to counter the “hatred” behind voter ID laws in Alabama, North Carolina and Texas.

“These guys never go away,” Biden said of supporters of voter ID. “Hatred never, never goes away. The zealotry of those who wish to limit the franchise cannot be smothered by reason.”

What do you think? Are voter ID laws needed in Alabama, or are the discriminatory?

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims