Voter ID bill passes final House committee

JUNEAU — A bill that would require Alaska’s voters to present photo identification at the polls has been moved out of its final committee of referral.

HB3, by Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, was advanced from the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. The measure now moves to the House Rules Committee, which could schedule it for a vote.

The bill would stipulate that voters present a form of photo ID or two forms of non-photo identification to election officials. If two officials know the voter, the identification requirement can be waived.

Voters who do not meet any of those requirements could still submit a questioned ballot and prove their identity later.

Lynn says the bill is necessary to protect Alaska’s voting system — in which elections can be decided by a single vote — from fraud.

“Nothing in HB3 whatsoever prevents anybody who is registered to vote or is motivated to vote from doing so,” Lynn told the committee. “It’s our intent not to disenfranchise anybody but to safeguard our precious right to vote in this state.”

However, some argue that the bill as currently written is unconstitutional because it disparately affects Alaska Natives and rural voters who don’t have the same level of access to identification as urban voters do.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska also says the bill is similar to a poll tax because Alaskans have to pay for the types of identification that are required to vote.

One rural legislator proposed an amendment that would have exempted communities with a population of less than 5,000 from the bill’s more stringent voting requirements.

Rep. Neal Foster said he put forward the amendment to raise awareness to the challenges that the bill would pose for those in rural Alaska, especially the elderly. Foster pulled the amendment because he said it might be unconstitutional according to a memo he said he received from a legislative attorney.

But the Nome Democrat said he’ll pursue the issue as the bill moves throughout the legislative process. The legislative session is scheduled to end Sunday.

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Online:

HB3: http://bit.ly/17pAN5C

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