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Voter ID laws unlikely to change in New York state, according to Board of Elections officials

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In the midst of a nationwide debate over voter identification laws, Jefferson County Board of Elections officials say they expect very little to change in the way the county verifies voter identity at the polls.

“I don’t really see anything coming down the lines in terms of changes to voter ID,” Republican Election Commissioner Jerry O. Eaton said. “In the five years since I’ve been here, we’ve never had any allegations of voter fraud.”

Although the county has been issuing voter identification cards since 1998, they are not required to be shown at a polling site to vote, according to Democratic Election Commissioner Babette M. Hall.

Unless voters register by mail, they do not have to present any form of documentary evidence of residency at the polling site. A voter simply states his or her name, validates the address listed and signs the election book to gain access to the ballot box.

New residents who want to vote in the primary must register in person or by mail no later than Aug. 16. Mailed applications must be postmarked by Aug. 16 and received no later than Aug. 21.

To vote in the general election, new residents must register in person or by mail no later than Oct. 11. By mail, applications must be postmarked no later than Oct. 11 and received no later than Oct. 16.

If a resident registered by mail and identification is required at the polling place, a passport, driver’s license, non-driver’s ID card, student ID card, pilot’s license, military ID or government ID will be accepted as a valid form of identification. Current utility bills, bank statements, government checks, paychecks or other government documents bearing the name and address of the voter will suffice if photo identification is not available.

Newly registered residents receive identification cards in the mail.

Voters who registered before 1998 may receive new ID cards in the mail if they have made a change to their addresses.

Address changes and changes to birth dates, which were not always tabulated, may be made at the polling site.

If an election inspector or another voter has reason to believe that someone is attempting voter fraud, he or she can initiate a challenge process on the spot, although it is rarely done.

“I don’t ever remember anyone on election day being challenged,” Ms. Hall said.

But, absent a stricter set of voter identification laws — which will be debated anew in the wake of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision — the challenge process is the primary recourse for officials to prevent voter fraud.

On Monday, in Arizona et al. v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona Inc., et al., the Supreme Court ruled that the uniform federal form used to register voters for federal elections, which requires only that an applicant swear, under penalty of perjury, that he or she is a citizen, pre-empts an Arizona law that would require voter registration officials to reject any application not accompanied by “documentary evidence of citizenship.”

According to Lyle Denniston, a reporter for SCOTUSblog, a Bloomberg Law service, the ruling appears to grant ultimate authority in determining voter eligibility to the federal government but simultaneously leaves open the option for state officials to request that the federal government allow them to impose stricter identification laws and to appeal denials of those requests.

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