There appears to be widespread confusion over New York's voter I.D. laws at an Astoria polling place. Local resident Josh Abrams tells us that poll workers at PS 85 in Queens repeatedly demanded to see his I.D. when he tried to vote this morning. In most cases, New York State does not require registered voters to show identification in order to vote, and a rash of controversial voter I.D. laws in other states have been challenged in court, on the grounds that they suppress the vote. Here, Abrams tells us about his attempt to vote without showing I.D.:
When I was waiting in line to check in, a roving poll worker asked me to get my photo ID out. I asked him why since photo IDs were not required in NY, and he said the poll workers who check me in need my ID. I asked him again why they would need something that isn't required to be produced under NY state law, and I reminded him that voter ID is a national issue now. He turned around and walked away at that point.
But then when I went to check in and sign the signature portion, I was again asked for an ID. I politely informed them that I wasn't going to hand over my ID since it wasn't the law, and I instead told them that my name and spelled it out for them (and it isn't a weird name, a tank is named after my last name—Abrams—and my name is always on the first page of the list).
This isn't the first time that this happened at the location—they were asking for photo IDs in the 2012 general election as well.
I don't think this is an actual instance of voter intimidation at my polling location, but it worries me that poll workers are openly flouting the law in NY, where voters merely need to confirm their name and address by signing the signature form. It makes me wonder if this is now some part of poll worker training, where people are told to ask for ID. Voting should be made as easy as possible, and there shouldn't be these type of unnecessary hurdles put in place that discourage people from voting.
When we visited the polling place this afternoon, there was no consensus from workers regarding identification. Asked if voters needed identification to vote, two workers said that they did, but when pressed they conceded it was requested but not necessary. We spoke with multiple voters who said they were not asked to show I.D., and two who said that they were asked if they had I.D.
Charlie Silla was voting with his wife Anna, and told us he was asked for I.D. upon arrival. "As soon as you go to the table and they check, they ask for I.D. and they look for your name," Silla told us. But in the end, Silla wasn't required to present his I.D., only asked if he had it with him.
Valerie Vasquez, a spokesperson for the Board of Elections, says that there are cases where I.D. is required, specifically if a newly registered voter has not yet provided a Social Security Number or driver's license number. "If they haven't provided that yet and they come into vote, there will be a designation next to their name informing the poll worker to ask for I.D."
But Abrams is not a newly registered voter, and it appears that poll workers were asking other voters to have their I.D.s ready to expedite the registration process. Vasquez says, "Poll workers are informed in their training there is no I.D. requirement other than the instances I explained to you. However, it is possible a poll worker was asking for I.D. to speed up the line to find out where voters need to go."
Vasquez told us she would send a monitoring team to the school today. Here, from the New York Public Interest Group [pdf], is what you need to know about I.D. requirement at the polls:
Newly registered voters should bring an ID to the polls but, if you've voted in a previous election you shouldn't need one. Most voters who have voted in a previous election will not have to show any identification or proof of citizenship to vote. The voter ID card you may have received in the mail is intended to help you locate your polling site, but it is not required to vote. As a voter all you will have to do is sign your name in the poll site book.
However, voters registering for the first time in their present county/NYC, may be asked to show ID at the polls in order to vote on a machine, if they did not include their license (or non driver ID) number or the last four digits of their social security number on their registration form, or if their license/ID number/social security number couldn't be verified with the State's database. So new voters should make sure they bring ID with them to the polls. But, even if you are asked to produce ID and that ID is rejected by poll workers it is still your right to vote by paper/affidavit ballot.
If you are asked to show ID all that is required is a "current and valid photo identification" with your name and picture such as a drivers license or college ID. Government documents and utility bills or bank statements with your name and address are also acceptable forms of ID. Contact your local Board of Elections or NYPIRG at the number below for more info.
To report a complaint about discriminatory voting practices on Election Day, call the Attorney General's Hotline at 800-771-7755 or email email@example.com at any time between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.
With Marc Yearsley.