Delegates debate requiring photo ID to vote

By Megan Poinski

Requiring voters to show identification in order to vote is a necessary and easy way to prevent voter fraud, Del. Kathy Afzali told her colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee, but other delegates and voter advocates argued that the requirement would prevent people from voting.

Afzali, a freshman Frederick County Republican, has proposed a bill that would require voters to present government-issued photo ID to verify their identity and address in order to cast a ballot. Voters who do not have photo ID, or who have moved and have a different address than the one on their ID, would be allowed to cast provisional ballots.

Del. Kathy Afzali

Del. Kathy Afzali

Currently, in order to vote, registered voters must verify residency and identifying information with a poll worker, and sign their names.

This measure, Afzali said, would halt any attempts at voter fraud. People could not pretend to be someone else at the voting booth, casting ballots for voters who have died or moved. People also would not be able to register to vote in two counties and cast ballots in both of them.

She argued that people are required to show photo ID in order to board an airplane, pay for purchases with a check, and get certain over-the-counter medications from a pharmacy. Voting is just as important, and should be treated as such. Besides, she argued, every other aspect of voting – from machines to paper ballots – is closely protected.

“Requiring voters to identify themselves at the polling place is part and parcel of the process,” Afzali said. “Every illegal vote steals the vote of a legitimate voter.”

She said that there is no evidence or allegation in widespread voting fraud in Maryland, but she is sure it exists. Right now, the government has no easy way to track it.

Afzali also debunked a common criticism of voter ID laws: that people don’t always have photo identification and are turned away from voting. To back up her argument, Afzali presented several studies and statistics about the issue. Indiana and Georgia have both passed voter ID laws in the last decade, and studies showed that voter turnout and participation improved during the 2008 election, which was the first presidential election with the laws in place.

But some of Afzali’s fellow delegates, as well as election officials at the meeting to testify on the bill, did not agree with her arguments. Del. Frank Turner said that the 2008 presidential election in and of itself boosted voter turnout.

“The turnout went up because of President Obama. Not because of IDs,” Turner said.

Afzali replied that while that may be the case, the overriding criticism of this kind of legislation is that it disenfranchises minority voters. And if turnout increased for all demographics, even with a law requiring voters to show IDs, then the argument does not hold up.

Montgomery County attorney and voter advocate Jonathan Shurberg, who spoke on several election-related bills at Tuesday’s hearing, voter IDs are an extremely partisan issue. Shurberg told delegates if he’d had more time to prepare he could have found studies that showed the opposite of Afzali’s presentation, and indicated voter IDs hurt voter turnout.

“Voter ID laws are, as far as I’m concerned, voter suppression laws,” Shurberg said.

Shurberg was not alone in his opposition to the bill. Maryland League of Women Voters President Nancy Soreng said that the voting system already has enough protection against fraud, and this bill would be burdensome and discriminatory toward voters.

However, Frederick County Election Director Stuart Harvey supports the bill. He said that voters often ask why they don’t need to show IDs at the polls, and he did not think that it would burden voters.

Del. Nicholaus Kipke, R-Anne Arundel County, said his grandmother always bothers him about the fact that she doesn’t have to show an ID when she goes to vote. His bill, inspired by his grandmother, gives voters the option of showing their IDs when they go to vote.  When registering to vote, people would indicate if they want to be asked for their IDs at the polls.

Delegates and witnesses objected to Kipke’s bill, saying that it would create confusion at the polls. Del. Anne Kaiser, D-Montgomery County, brought discussion back to Kipke’s grandmother.

“You seem like a very good grandson,” Kaiser said. “What if we amend it so just she will have to show her ID?”

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Mdbrowdy

    I favor a requirement for a photo ID

  2. Kent1604

    Placing restrictions on voters has long been a way to restrict who can and who can not vote. If Del. Afzali has proof that voter fraud is a noteable problem in Maryland I hope that she presents the names, dates, and voting irregularities as factual, hardcopy evidence and is pursing that evidence in a court of law against the offenders. I hope that she and those that support this can show with solid evidence, not just talking points that this really is needed to protect everyone’s right to vote. Otherwise this bill, its timing, and that it comes from a Republican politican seems to re-enforce the Republican’s goals of preventing Pres. Obama and any other Democrat from winning office. I, personnally, am not shocked but am disgused that this bill came out of my district

    As to who should pay … since this would become a State of Maryland requirement I believe that not only should the state cover all costs, with no fees to the voter, that they should have Photo ID facilities established at each and every voting poll so that our state citizens can obtain those IDs on site and then go cast their vote according to their own political leans, experiences and opinions.

    Jim Crow laws smelled bad during the Civil War Reconstruction era, they smelled bad during the 1960s as Gov. Wallace with the armed State Militia stood on the school house steps to keep a young girl entering the building and this bill smell like Jim Crow.

  3. M

    New Hampshire to remove the constitutional right to vote from college kids.

    Who gives the GOP the right to say that “New Hampshire’s new Republican state House speaker is pretty clear about what he thinks of college kids and how they vote. They’re “foolish,” Speaker William O’Brien said in a recent speech to a tea party group.

    “Voting as a liberal. That’s what kids do,” he added, his comments taped by a state Democratic Party staffer and posted on YouTube. Students lack “life experience,” and “they just vote their feelings.”

    The Republicans are childish, arrogant and immature.

  4. M

    No one has answered my question. Who pays for these voter ID cards if states are allegedly broke that the Republicans are saying. Meshkin, WHERE IS THE VOTER FRAUD?? Are you by yourself willing to pick up the tab, cuz as a taxpayer, I don’t see the need for it. Oh! wait…you mean the voter fraud that the MD Att Gen is investigating on Bob Erhlich for bringing those poor black people from Pennsylvania to put fliers on ppl’s cars to vote the day after the election! Is that what you are referring to? Or are you referring to the Republican attempts to voter suppress the Democrats last year by Ehrlich which is currently being investigated?

    Republican are liars and try to stop ppl from their constitutional right to vote. Look at what they are doing in New Hampshire. It’s ridiculous.

    Where are all of the republicans now???

  5. M

    BTW, WHO IS GOING TO PAY FOR THIS???? Republicans are claiming that states are broke. If that’s the case, who would pay for this massive expense? if the states aren’t broke, then they are liars. I doubt taxpayers would be willing to pick up the tab, so again who pays for this since republicans are trying to kill the federal government. I do NOT want my tax dollars going for this and I doubt any other person would too. REPUBLICANS ARE LIARS AND GARBAGE and want to TAX (the middle class for EVERYTHING) and SPEND on crap like this!! No thanks. Go shove it!!

    • Anonymous

      Your other comment on this post has been deleted for profanity. –MLP

  6. M

    BTW, WHO IS GOING TO PAY FOR THIS???? Republicans are claiming that states are broke. If that’s the case, who would pay for this massive expense? if the states aren’t broke, then they are liars. I doubt taxpayers would be willing to pick up the tab, so again who pays for this since republicans are trying to kill the federal government. I do NOT want my tax dollars going for this and I doubt any other person would too. REPUBLICANS ARE LIARS AND GARBAGE and want to TAX (the middle class for EVERYTHING) and SPEND on crap like this!! No thanks. Go shove it!!

  7. M

    The bill is disgusting and won’t pass in a solidly Democratic state, where Democrats control the House, the Senate the State house. She is a bitch and she is towing the party line of all of these other racist one-term GOP governors in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Maine, NH, and Florida.

    What problem Blake????
    There are NO voting problems in Maryland. Democrats outnumber Republicans in this state 4 to 1. You will ALWAYS lose!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Maryland will not tolerate this kind of bullshit that goes on elsewhere in this country.

  8. blake sutherland

    A simple fix to a problem many Marylanders are not aware of. Thousands of illegal immigrants in PG and Montgomery counties vote. Some may say who cares. I think most would say. Local politicians in these counties seek the Hispanic vote and do not want this bill in any form. Instead of informing and instructing the illegal inhabitants they are not allowed to vote they are pandered to. Sad but true. Migrant intruders from other countries voting. Come on that’s way wrong. Voting is precious thing provided by we the people.

    • Kent1604

      I have read your posting several times … As a Maryland (legal) resident I am required first to register to vote. Then on voting day I am required to find the line – A to L or M to Z. That line takes me to a table where my name and address MUST appear on the Voter’s Roll. Then and only then am I given one of those white plastic rectangles that go into the voting machine. All of this must to done before I can cast my vote.

      Are you suggesting that “Thousands upon thousands” of illegal aliens have managed to sneak past all of these steps and managed to cast a vote? Are you suggesting that the Illegal Alien communities are so well organized that they collect thousands of death names, correlate those names to voting places, pass those names out to their Illegal Alien membership and then corrodinate all those people so that all those Illegal Aliens can endulge in voter fraud? Or are you suggesting that those volunteers that man the voting polls are so liberal that they don’t notice that someone who looks like a Herandez is voting under the name of O’Patrick ?

      This argument sounds emotional not factual … This bucket does not hold water.

  9. Leightatiner

    Require an IQ TEST. That would disqualify most conservatives from holding elected office or voting!

  10. Guesto

    All of a Sudden the Grand Ole Party wants to protect our democratic process from frauds and cheats and people who would subvert our sweet innocent democracy. Now if voting was mandatory like it is in Peru, of course we would need proof you voted to avoid fines or imprisonment. This issue is being raised in 22 of the 50 states. Why? Because people who tend to be poor or recent immigrants or students or elderly do not always have the resources to obtain such ID’s with photos, names and matching addresses. Guess who these folks tend to vote for? Democrats! Are there any issues of voter fraud in the Free State, or anywhere else, for that matter? If it ain’t broke, why fix it? So why doesn’t the State or the County provide a Voter ID Card to those who do not have an ID? I used to get one in the mail from my Board of Elections.

  11. BstD59

    If someone is unable to produce identification in all likelihood they are not able to legally vote. This bill, in my opinion, should be passed but should also include that if a voter is unable to produce identification they may only vote by provisional ballot. Asking for ID is simply another tool to make certain that fraud is not committed. I doubt that any qualified voter would be offended by having to produce ID. Just the contrary is true, many voters demand to know why election judges don’t require it, usually while they are insisting on showing the judges their own ID.

    • mp

      in all likelyhood? really? so an 85 year old in a nursing home in a wheelchair should have a valid photo ID on them at all times? They dont need to drive. Yet they should have an ID on them…why? Papers. I need to see your papers.

      Where is the fraud? How many newspaper articles are there covering the so called fraud? Do you know a single person who has ever showed up at the polls only to find someone has voted as them? Why not? Because it doesnt happen. This is simply not happening. Its possible that it could happen, yet its not happening. At least not on any scale that can be noticed.

      The article says that this is a solution looking for a problem. The problem does not exist.

  12. Richard Baldwin Cook

    This legislation is a solution looking for a problem, when the only problem is the usual one of GOP trying to discourage non-GOP voters.

    Nothing new here, and no legitimate reason for the legislature to take action.

  13. Guest

    I’ve worked as an election judge in the past three or four elections and I support this legislation. I would estimate that half of the people who come up to me at the check-in desk present me with ID because they assume they are supposed to. They are always surprised and upset to learn that they don’t need it. It wouldn’t create confusion; it would create comfort.

  14. Tmcquighan

    Let the non “ID” people cast provisional ballots, you should not turn away anyone at the poll. Its pretty simple really.

  15. Jturne

    I have never felt the procedures I have encountered in registering or at the polls assure I am a legitimate voter. In view of the ACORN and Project Vote, as well as other organization’s efforts and Motor Voter I have concern that Voter Fraud is being Invited. Initiatives to allow register and vote and voting out of district further loosen safeguards. Therefore I fully support a presentation of a drivers license (I understand that persons who don’t drive can obtain similar documentation for identification purposes). We already have destructive provisions in place that reduce the validity of votes … we need every protection we can get!

    • mp

      Have you been denied the opportunity to vote? Why not? Because you successfully registered. What has ACORN done besides register people to vote who werent registered? This is not rocket science. Its voting. There are no problems!

      People who vote for Mickey Mouse or leave their ballots blank are more of a problem than phantom voter fraud.


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