There is general agreement among election officials that the ID requirements of the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA), enacted in October 2002, will be very difficult to implement and raise issues of potential unequal application.
What the Act Requires
The ID requirements apply to both polling places and voting by mail. Under HAVA, voter registration applicants are required to either provide a valid driver's license number, or, for applicants who do not have a valid driver's license number, the last four digits of his/her Social Security number. The Act further states that if an individual registers by mail and has not previously voted in an election for federal office in the statejurisdiction, then (a) if the person votes in person, the voter must show photo ID or a document that indicates both the voter's name and residence address, (b) if the voter votes by mail, the voters must submit a copy of a photo ID or a document with both the voter's name and residence address. This provision goes into affect for the March 2, 2004 election. If the voter provides their driver’s license number when they register to vote, and the number is able to be matched to a state record, then the voter will not be required to show ID when they vote.
Requirements Contingent Upon Implementation of Statewide Database
Under HAVA, voter registration applicants are required to either provide a valid driver's license number, or, for applicants who do not have a valid driver's license number, the last four digits of his/her Social Security number. These ID requirements are contingent upon the implementation of a statewide computerized database of voters which we anticipate being in place in 2006. With all voters in one database, with a unique identifier for each voter – dDriver’s lLicense number or last 4 digits of the Social Security number – elections officials will be able to identify any duplicate voters and to determine any prior voting history at the voter’s same address in a federal election. If prior voting history in a federal election is established, then the voter is exempt from the ID requirements to show identification when he/shethey votes. However, at this time, it is uncertain how these voters will be tracked and identified and puts them in a category for treatment different from other voters.
Moreover, California currently does not have a statewide voter database that meets the requirements of HAVA.
If California does not have one by 2006, then all voters must meet the ID requirements.
What Election Officials Are Doing Today
However, as far as the ID requirement, elections officials have been advised by the Secretary of State's Office to maximize the collection of ID driver’s license numbers at the point of registration in order to minimize the administrative problems and possible voter disenfranchisement issues with ID at the point of voting.
At this time, using a voter’s driver’s license number is preferred over the last 4 digits of a Social Security number because of the existing CalVoter system and the state’s current voter registration card that utilizes the driver’s license number if provided. Once the statewide voter database mandated by HAVA is implemented, then the plan is to have a mechanism for tracking and confirming the last 4 digits of a voter’s Social Security number in addition to the driver’s license number.
Therefore, voter registration cards completed without a Driver’s Llicense or last 4-digits of the Social Security number are being added to the voter file. These voters, however, are being sent a letter asking them to provide their driver’s license number ID and are being reassured that thethis ID driver’s license numberID is confidential. However, if a voter chooses not to provide his/her the driver’s license number, ID, it will not affect the voter’s registration status.
However, the next time these voters vote in a statewide election, they may have to vote provisionally at the polls or provide ID at the polls or in their vote-by-mail ballot.
However, at that time of showing ID, election officials will record the number and add it to the voter’s record for the future.
What Happens in 2006?
If California has the statewide voter database as required by HAVA, then only those voters who have voted in a federal election are exempt from the ID requirements. Aall new voters registrants will be required to provide an Ideither their driver’s license number, if they have one, or the last 4 four digits of their Social Security number on their voter’s registration card,
It is uncertain at this time what options will be available to voters who do not want to use their Driver's License or last 4-digits of their Social Security card and have either of those IDs. If voters DO NOT HAVE either ID, the elections official is supposed to assign a unique identifier. A system is not in place for doing this at this time, nor is it determined how the elections official will confirm that the voter does not have such an ID. The Act requires election officialsbut the statewide voter database will be able to confirm ID numbers through DMV or Social Security, which may will also be the mechanism to confirm a person’s denial of such ID.
Another concern is how well poll workers will comprehend and implement the requirements of this Act. If it is unclear which voters are required to show ID and which are not. Confused poll workers may, by mistake, require a voter , some may be required to show ID or vote provisionally who may not have to. Or voters who should be voting provisionally, may, by mistake, vote a regular ballot. Election officials will be developing processes and procedures at the polls to minimize any errors in processing voters.
There is still much for election officials at the local and state level to learn regarding implementation of HAVA.
So, for now…
If voters choose at this time to withhold providing their drivers' license, or last 4 digits of their Social Security Number, that will not affect their voter's’ registration status. It may, though, as stated above, affect what voters must do in order to cast their ballots at the next election.