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A push in N.J. against voter ID

Some Democrats want to be sure the state doesn't follow Pa.'s lead.

TRENTON - Some Democratic legislators want to make sure New Jersey doesn't follow the lead of Pennsylvania and other states and enact strict voter ID laws they say could lead to suppression at the polls.

Assemblyman John McKeon of Essex County said Thursday that the laws, which require voters to present photo identification, are thinly veiled attempts to suppress votes primarily from poor, Democratic constituencies. Such laws could hurt President Obama's reelection bid because they strike at his support base, McKeon said.

"Twenty-one million Americans don't have photo IDs, and two-thirds of that 21 million come from core Democratic constituencies," he said. "This shouldn't be a partisan issue. . . . We should be finding ways to get more people to exercise this precious right to vote, not suppressing it."

A judge this week declined to block a Pennsylvania law requiring voters to show photo ID at the ballot box. The case is being appealed.

Ten states have passed voter ID laws, some less stringent than Pennsylvania's, since 2010. The Pennsylvania legislation requires voters to present documentation as proof of identification before voting. The most common accepted photo ID would be a state driver's license. Those who don't drive could get nondriver's identification cards through the Department of Transportation.

Proponents of such voter ID bills say they guard against voter fraud.

McKeon said he had never heard of a case of in-person voter fraud at a New Jersey polling station.

Republican-sponsored voter ID bills in the Garden State have stalled in the Legislature. They are unlikely to advance in the Democratic-led Senate and Assembly.

Five of the 12 most hotly contested states in the November presidential election have passed stricter voter ID laws, which opponents say make voting more difficult for students, minorities, low-income residents, and people with disabilities, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, a nonpartisan public policy institute.

"Every voter should demonstrate that they are who they say they are before voting," the center says on its website. But "that form of proof should not include restrictive documentation requirements like overly burdensome photo ID or redundant proof of citizenship requirements that serve to block millions of eligible American citizens from voting."