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Ortt addresses 'disenfranchisement' claims with new Voter ID bill

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State Sen. Robert Ortt has introduced an updated Voter ID bill which he says will help secure elections in New York State. He tells WBFO this latest bill also addresses concerns about the "disenfranchisement" of poorer citizens.

Under Ortt's proposal, voters would need to present a form of identification before casting a ballot, such as a driver's license, passport, military ID card, or other government-issued ID document.

"We're moving into a much more technologically advanced society where this is now seeping into our electoral process," he said. "Just like when you're making a transaction online with your credit card, your bank and all these institutions, they have all these fraud protections and firewalls and a lot of ways to try and confirm that the person making the transaction is, in fact, the person they say they are."

Ortt points to the passage earlier this year of Governor Cuomo's "Green Light Bill," which would allow the issuance of driver licenses to undocumented residents in New York State. Critics like Ortt see that as creating the potential for non-citizens living illegally in the United States to be allowed to vote.

That law is now being challenged in court. In the meantime, the federal government will require all driver licenses be compliant with the REAL ID system beginning October 1, 2020.

There are Voter ID laws in effect in 35 states. But critics say it disenfranchises many people of color or economically challenged neighborhoods where people may not be able to afford a driver license. Ortt's bill would waive the cost of non-driver IDs for those receiving Medicaid.

"It wouldn't be a driver's license, unless they actually wanted that. But if they wanted some form of picture ID to vote, as this law requires, if they're on Medicaid the fee for that state ID would be waived so that we're not disenfranchising anyone. That's not the goal of this bill."

There are some safeguards now in place, such as providing a signature upon arrival at a polling station. If matched with the printed copy on file with election workers, the person can then proceed to vote. But Ortt feels more verification of that person's identity is necessary.

"Right now it's just the honor system," he said. "To me, in 2020, saying you need to present some form of identification, that you are who you say you are, to cast a vote in our election, should not be a controversial thing."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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