Thursday, October 16, 2008

Benge Announces Push For Voter ID

Legislation requiring identification to vote will be a priority for House Republicans next session House Speaker Chris Benge said today.

The announcement came on the same day FBI officials confirmed to the Associated Press that there is an ongoing investigation into whether the community activist group ACORN encouraged voter fraud across the country in an effort to register more Democrats prior to the Nov. 4 election.

For years, House Republicans have pushed to increase Oklahomans’ faith in their elections by requiring identification prior to voting, including a free state-issued voter ID card. But, Democrats have blocked the effort, claiming an ID will disenfranchise poor voters.

“We are not asking low-income voters to pay anything for identification,” said Benge, R-Tulsa. “And anyone who shows up to the polls to vote on Election Day without an ID would still be able to cast a ballot and have their vote counted if they swear to their identity in a written affidavit.

“But in light of the accusations against ACORN, I think we can all agree that it is our duty to ensure the people of Oklahoma trust our election outcomes,” he said. “And the only way to prevent fraud is to have voters show proof they are who they say they are at the voting booth.”

Some ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) employees have been accused of submitting false voter registration forms – including some signed `Mickey Mouse' and several in Nevada listing Dallas Cowboys players’ names, though none of the players live in the state. Another Nevada ACORN worker was caught filling out voter registration forms using names and addresses copied out of the telephone book.
In Nevada, Connecticut, Missouri and at least five other states, fraud investigations are underway and election officials in Ohio and North Carolina also recently questioned voter cards submitted by the group.

The FBI confirmed today they raided the ACORN offices in several states seeking evidence to prove a coordinated national voter scam. The group has claimed to register 1.3 million new voters this election cycle, many of which are now seen as tainted.

“Free and fair elections are the backbone of our democracy, and if Oklahomans do not have trust in our election system, that will only further suppress turnout and increase voter apathy,” said Benge. “We absolutely want to bring new voters into the fold, but we must protect against fraud by ensuring only those able to vote are casting ballots so when our election results are announced, Oklahomans can be confident in the results.”

Last year, Rep. Sue Tibbs carried legislation that would have required identification to vote. The bill provided for a long list of identification options, including a free, state-issued voter ID card, a copy of a utility bill or a driver’s license. It also included language that would have allowed Oklahomans to vote without identification if they signed an affidavit attesting to their identity.

But, the legislation was killed by Democrats in the Senate despite a ruling of the Indiana Supreme Court around the same time in favor of its voter identification law citing the need to reduce voter fraud.

Benge said the legislation will be filed again next legislative session and will be a leadership priority.

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