In elections past, Rhode Island has not required photo identification for a ballot to be counted. However, with the passage of a new law the state has at least superficially joined the ranks of states which have approved legislation that will hamper the voting rights of its most vulnerable citizens. Yet the truth may not be so simple. Rhode Island’s law is less restrictive and more benign than legislation passed by other states which may explain the unique politics behind the passage of RI’s new photo identification bill.

The law will be implemented in two stages. “The first stage will require non-photo ID beginning Jan. 1, 2012. The second stage will require photo ID beginning Jan. 1, 2014.”

For the upcoming 2012 election, voters are able to vote by establishing their identity through possession of forms of ID that do not have their photo, “including without limitation”: a birth certificate, social security card, or government-issued medical card. The language “without limitation” can reasonably be construed as meaning that “any current photo identification that includes the name and photograph of the voter will be accepted.” Continue reading