Pending appeals, a Pennsylvania judge has upheld a new law in that state that would require all voters to show a current photo I.D. Although they appear to be doing nothing more than gathering dust, there are two bills in the New Jersey legislature that would enact the very same law in the Garden State and that has some Democratic lawmakers very concerned.

Voting station

"21 million Americans don't have photo I.D.s and two-thirds of that 21 million come from core Democratic constituencies," says Assemblyman John McKeon, a Democrat. "I know that sounds partisan, but believe me from my perspective this shouldn't be a partisan issue…..We should be finding ways to get more people to exercise this precious right to vote, not suppressing it."

McKeon says, because voter fraud is so very rare, "This is a solution looking for a problem (and) don't think it can't happen here. Not only is it happening in Pennsylvania just on the other side of the Delaware (River), but there's a proposal in the New Jersey legislature to do the same."

Opponents say many low-income and elderly citizens can't afford to pay for a photo I.D., but the Republican sponsored bills specifically state, "To ensure that no one is denied the right to vote based solely on an inability to pay for a government-issued document with photograph as required under the bill for identity verification, the Motor Vehicle Commission would issue a non-driver identification card without cost to any voter requiring such document upon demonstration of satisfactory proof of indigence."

The legislation requires voters to present the documentation as proof of voter identity to vote. A voter, whether voting in person or through mail-in ballot, would be required to show or submit a copy of a New Jersey driver's license, New Jersey non-driver's identification card, or other document, that includes the name of the voter to whom the document was issued, a photograph of the voter to whom the document was issued, an expiration date, showing that the document is not expired or expired only after the date of the most recent election and was issued by the federal government or the State of New Jersey.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, five of the 12 likely battleground states have passed stricter voter I.D. laws that make voting more difficult particularly for young people, minorities, low-income citizens, and people with disabilities.

Also in its study, the Center reports that nationwide, more than 5 million eligible voters could find it significantly harder to vote in 2012, a number larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections.

It bears noting that the State Senate and Assembly bills are sponsored by Republicans. Because the New Jersey State Legislature is controlled by Democrats it is highly unlikely either measure will ever see the light of day.

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