- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 6, 2001

ANNAPOLIS Maryland's House of Delegates today will consider a bill that would require voters to show proper identification at the polls, a proposal that narrowly cleared Virginia's General Assembly last year.
The Democratic Party has generally opposed such measures as potentially intimidating to voters. So some legislators were surprised the bill even cleared committee in a legislature where Democrats outnumber Republicans about 3 to 1.
The bill's primary sponsor Delegate B. Daniel Riley, Harford County Democrat was drawn to the proposal by tales of misrepresentation at the polls, including one he learned of in his own county where a woman voted for her sick mother.
Similar claims attracted many of his co-sponsors, who include three Democrats and four Republicans.
Mr. Riley has said some critics have gone so far as to accuse him of promoting "Jim Crow laws" a charge he says couldn't be further from the truth.
"I always teach my students that with rights come responsibilities," said Mr. Riley, a middle-school social studies teacher. "If I want to drive a car, I have to have a license. If I want to rent a video, I have to show a membership card."
Like the Virginia measure Mr. Riley said he modeled it on, his proposal would require voters listed on the rolls to show a state-issued voter card, Social Security card, driver's license, other government-issued identification card or employer-issued photo ID.
As in Virginia, Maryland voters without such identification would be allowed to vote if they sign a statement, under penalty of perjury, stating that they are who they claim to be. Maryland already requires voters to sign an "authority card."
Unlike the Virginia law, the Maryland proposal calls for voters to give poll staff their Social Security numbers to be recorded on the precinct register.
Because of increases in identity theft and concerns about the hardships it causes victims, provisions mandating use of Social Security numbers will probably be removed if the bill goes forward, legislators said.
Debate on the House floor is expected to be lively, and Mr. Riley said state election officials warned him the greatest opposition to his bill will come from his own party.
"Overall, we are not in favor of such a measure," said Ann K. Beesgle, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party. "We want to ensure it's as easy as possible for every citizen to vote. We generally feel the fewer the barriers, the better."
Delegate Theodore Sophocleus, Anne Arundel County Democrat, said the catalyst behind voter ID moves has always been complaints about fraud: People who "weren't alive" voting or who didn't live in a jurisdiction.
He said he'd been told that a busload of people showed up to vote in Annapolis recently " 'with names on pieces of paper.' "
"Unfortunately, you pass bills for the 1 percent of people that don't abide by the law, not the 99 percent who do," said Mr. Sophocleus, who said he wouldn't be supporting a measure he thought would intimidate voters.
Although the Legislative Black Caucus has not taken a position on the bill, its chairman Delegate Talmadge Branch, Baltimore Democrat said he's concerned such checks could slow down the voting process and deter voters.
"If we are having [problems], we need to fund a remedy what that is I don't know but I hope we don't have something that would turn voters away," Mr. Branch said.

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