Alabama's voter ID law didn't create any snags in the voting process for Calhoun County voters on Tuesday, election officials reported Tuesday afternoon.
"We figured there would be a lot of people who needed a new ID because this is the first year the photo ID law is in effect," said J.J. Taylor, a member of the Calhoun County board of Registrars. "So far, there have only been a couple."
The Alabama Legislature voted in 2011 to require voters to show photo identification — such as a driver's license or military ID card — at the polls. Supporters of the law said it was a basic safeguard against voter fraud, and one that should have been implemented long ago. Opponents said in-person voter fraud is extremely rare, while the number of American citizens without a photo ID is relatively large — one in nine people, according to an estimate by the Brennan Center at New York University, which opposes voter ID laws.
Photo ID requirements became a hot topic in the 2012 elections with Democrats claiming they were put in place largely to suppress turnout in minority communities — but in Alabama the photo ID requirement didn't go into effect until Tuesday's primary elections. Before the law, the state accepted some non-photo forms of identification, including utility bills with names and addresses on them, as proof of identity.
In Calhoun County, there were few reports of problems with the voter ID law Tuesday. The Board of Registrars kept its office open all day to make voter-only photo IDs for people who were turned away from the polls for lack of identification.
Taylor said the staff made only two IDs Tuesday.
"We've had a lot more people who got sent to another polling place because their address changed," Taylor said.
In a day of interviews with voters at polling places across the city, The Star didn't encounter a single person who ran into trouble for lack of identification.
"I work at the depot, so I'm used to showing ID," said Melissa Pryce, an Anniston Army Depot worker who voted at God's Covenant Ministries on Tuesday.
Some weren't aware the ID requirement was new.
"I've always shown my ID," said Vaughn Fleming, who voted at Saks High School. "I don't remember coming to the polls and not showing it."
When the law was passed, nursing home directors across the state expressed concern about how the law would affect the state's 24,000 nursing home residents, many of whom stopped driving years ago. When the Alabama Secretary of State's office began writing the rules for implementing the law last year officials made an exception for voters over 65 in nursing homes, as well as voters with disabilities who couldn't leave home.
As Election Day neared, officials made it clear that other rules would allow people to cast ballots without photo ID. Voters could go to their local registrar’s office on the day of the election and get an ID, election officials said. Or they could file a provisional ballot, with a few days' grace period to obtain a photo ID.
"No one should be turned away at the polling place," Deputy Secretary of State Emily Thompson said.
The fact that 2014 is a midterm election — with mostly statewide offices on the ballot — may have helped. Midterms typically have lower turnout than presidential-year elections, and midterm primaries often attract only the most faithful of voters. Election officials predicted Monday that only about 25 percent of registered voters would turn out for the election.
The Anniston-based nonprofit Empower Alabama, which does voter registration drives, reported Tuesday that poll workers turned away 93-year-old Willie Mims of Escambia County for lack of ID. The Star asked representatives of the group, via Twitter, if volunteers took Mims to a registrar's office for a voter-only ID
"Volunteers tried but he didn't want to go," the group tweeted. "He was pretty tired."