Woonsocket to test new voter photo ID law

Tuesday's primary for state representative in Woonsocket marks the first full roll out of the state's voter ID law.

A photo identification is now required to vote in Rhode Island.

Years in the works, the law is still a topic of debate. Jim Vincent, president of the Providence NAACP, said "There's too much of a possibility for people to be disenfranchised."

On the other side, Rep. Doreen Costa (R-North Kingstown) was one of the leaders pushing for the law. "I really don't see what the big deal is. I'm super excited."

Supporters argue that you need a picture ID for many transactions, and voting should be one of them, so poll workers know you are who you say you are. "I think it's very important. It cracks down on voter fraud," Costa told NBC10.

Vincent counters, "I don't buy that. There's no evidence of voter fraud. There's very little evidence of reporting fraud. I think it's a red herring."

Vincent claims many people don't have picture IDs, disproportionately impacting minorities, senior citizens, the poor, and so they'd be less likely to now vote.

Costa doesn't buy that argument. "In this day and age, I can't imagine anyone not having an ID and Secretary of State Ralph Mollis did a phenomenal job going to senior centers, going around the state, making sure everyone did get an ID, and it's free," she says.

The primary in Woonsocket has three Democrats, Douglas Brown, Mark Chenot, and Michael Morin, vying to fill the House seat left by new Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt.

While a picture ID will be required for this race, and going forward, voters can't be denied a ballot.

If someone who wants to vote does not bring a photo ID to the polls, they are entitled to fill out a provisional ballot and election officials will compare the signature on that to their voter registration card.

But Vincent says, "They'll say they're going to look at the signatures. Nobody has the same signature two years later, let alone 20 or 30 years ago. So I don't trust that. To me, if just one person is disenfranchised, that's one too many."

The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also opposes voter ID. Executive Director Steven Brown told NBC10 the ACLU will have people in Woonsocket Tuesday to see if there are any issues.