St. Clair and Madison County Clerks on board with voter ID law

Ann Knef Aug. 24, 2006, 1:48am

Bob Delaney

Mark Von Nida

Officials in St. Clair and Madison counties would like nothing more than to put to rest doubts about the integrity of elections.

St. Clair County Clerk Bob Delaney and Madison County Clerk Mark Von Nida also agree that voter identification is a smart idea that not only bolsters confidence, it improves efficiency at the polls.

"It's not a Democrat or Republican issue," Delaney said. "It's a good government issue. I don't see why anyone would oppose this. Some say it's prejudicial against minorities. I think we can come up with a solution."

In both counties voter ID procedures are already in place, unofficially.

"It's strictly voluntary," Delaney said. "I don't have the authority to mandate it."

Earlier this week State Rep. Ron Stephens called on the Illinois General Assembly to pass a mandatory photo ID law, an idea that is controversial among minority groups. Opponents argue that poor people don't always possess photo identification.

In states where laws have been passed, lawsuits have been filed challenging the laws' constitutionality. Court rulings have been mixed.

"In this day and age you go to the store and get asked for an ID for anything," Delaney said. "I think this law without a doubt would put to rest problems. It would make people feel good about election results."

Allegations of voter fraud have been rampant for years in East St. Louis, a municipality in St. Clair County but with a separate elections board.

Last year, a federal jury convicted five politicians from East St. Louis on vote buying charges.

Delaney said that no one in the county is refused the right to vote without photo identification. Voters who are challenged by election judges may have to take extra steps to prove their identity, but they can still vote.

Provisional ballots aren't counted at the polls. Those ballots are returned to the County Clerk who has 14 days after the election to determine their validity.

Von Nida said he is "on board" with a voter ID law. In Madison County voters are asked for any kind of picture ID before voting.

"It really is an unofficial policy," he said.

Even when election judges know everybody coming through the polls, it makes it easier work off IDs, especially when a last name is difficult to pronounce, he added.

"Permutations" of that policy include voters who register by mail. They must, by law, present a photo ID when voting for the first time. And voters who receive a challenge from an election judge must sign an affidavit -- subjecting them to perjury -- affirming they are who they say they are, Von Nida said.

While Von Nida favors a photo ID law, he would like safeguards balanced with a provision to allow election judges to use discretion.

There are instances when it may not be necessary for election judges to demand a photo ID from voters.

It wasn't such a great idea when in a recent election, a judge asked retired State Sen. Evelyn Bowles, who also served five consecutive terms as Madison County Clerk, to go back to her car for her driver's license.

"(Evelyn) Bowles took it with the grace you would expect," Von Nida said.

He supports policy that bolsters public confidence, but some people will never be convinced that certified election results are honest, Von Nida said.

"In today's climate people believe what they want to believe," he said. "You're never going to convince some people."

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