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    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    May 2005
    Heart of Dixie

    MA- Local Dominicans must have ID to vote today in homeland elections

    Dual citizenship should not be allowed I believe that a person can only truly be a citizen and pledge loyalty to one country.. JMO

    May 20, 2012
    Local Dominicans must have ID to vote today in homeland elections

    But they won't be required to when they vote for U.S. president

    By Yadira Betances

    LAWRENCE — When Dominicans living in the United States vote today at local polling places for the next president of their homeland, they will be required to show their Dominican-issued photo ID cards and get their index fingers painted with ink to show they already cast a ballot.

    But come November in Massachusetts, when many of those same voters choose between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, all they'll need to do is give their name and address to the poll worker before going into the voting booth.

    The difference in approach to voting requirements has spotlighted a hot, political topic, both in Massachusetts and across the country.
    On one side, proponents say strict voter ID laws will protect the integrity of elections. On the other, opponents see such IDs as discrimination against poor and minority voters.

    This fall, 30 states will require voters to show an ID. Since 2001, nearly 1,000 voter ID bills have been introduced in 46 states, according to the Conference of State Legislators.

    In Massachusetts, an effort to put a question on the ballot requiring voter ID failed last fall due to a shortage of signatures on an initiative petition. The effort was further stymied by a ruling from Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley that such a law would be unconstitutional because it would cost people $25 to get a voter photo ID from the state.

    In New Hampshire, the state legislature is debating several versions of a voter ID bill, and appears poised to approve some kind of law requiring stricter voting requirements than are currently on the books.
    For those in favor of voter ID, the Dominican election requirements are just more evidence that Massachusetts is behind much of the rest of the country and is even behind many other countries.

    "If an underdeveloped country has voter ID, people accept it and go out to vote with 80 to 90 percent turnout, then there should be no problem here," said New Hampshire state Rep. Carlos E. Gonzalez, who was born in Neyba, Dominican Republic.

    Maria Rosario, who moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic 15 years ago, disagrees with having photo IDs when voting in the United States, although she has had to show an ID in her country's elections for 30 years.

    "They are two different countries and the laws are not the same," said Rosario of Methuen. "If they haven't had it before, why try it now? Why fix what isn't broken?"

    Local resident Rafael Sanchez is concerned about discrimination.

    "When people see my Hispanic name and photo, they may treat me differently," said Sanchez, who has lived in Lawrence for 25 years. He votes in the Dominican as well as the local and national elections. "The U.S. Constitution says we are all created equal, and that should be respected during the elections."

    In favor of voter IDs

    The Dominican government has set up polling places today in Lawrence at the senior center and in Haverhill at the Citizen Center for citizens to cast their ballots in the presidential election. In order to vote, Dominicans must show the "cedula," the equivalent of a Social Security card which bears their photograph.

    After turning in their ballot, their index finger is inked in either purple or white — the colors of the Dominican Liberation Party and Dominican Revolutionary Party respectively — to indicate they have already voted and to prevent them from voting again.

    It's a stark difference when those same people vote in local, state and federal elections. When they cast their vote, they only have to identify themselves verbally.

    When state Rep. Marcos Devers served as interim mayor briefly in 2001, he tried to implement voter ID in the city, but the Democratic party was against it and took him to federal court for an injunction.
    "It's the right thing to do because it makes things transparent and it's common sense," said Devers, who is now a state representative.
    Tim Buckley, communications manager for the Massachusetts Republican Party, agreed.

    "It is unfortunate that the same level of voter fraud prevention will not be in place for the elections in September and November," he said, when apprised of the Dominican election requirements.

    Locally, Lawrence resident Wayne Hayes resigned from the group trying to recall Mayor William Lantigua to concentrate his efforts on a voter ID system.

    "Race and income has nothing to do with it. All I'm looking for is honesty," he said. "Since I was a kid, I've known of dead people who voted, people who are from out of state, from out of town and property owners who live out of the city."

    Olivier Kozlowski, a Mansfield, Mass., selectman who spearheaded the failed statewide initiative petition campaign last year to get a voter ID question on this fall's ballot, said he hasn't given up the fight.
    He has sponsored a non-binding question on this fall's ballot in his local state senatorial district that asks people what they think of voter photo IDs.

    "It's a non-binding public policy question," he said. "It will give a snapshot of what normal people think about this issue. I hope other people pick this up and put it in their senatorial or state representatives' districts."

    Opposed to IDs

    But many others are dead set against voter ID, saying that comparing the U.S. and Dominican systems are like comparing apples and oranges.

    Eva Valentine, president of the League of Women Voters and a resident of Haverhill, said voter IDs equal "voter suppression."

    She noted that the real problem is low voter turnout, not voter fraud.

    "You need voter ID if you have more people voting than there are registered voters," she said. "But we don't have that problem in this country or in Massachusetts. We have so many other issues, we don't have to create them. People are not voting, why aren't we looking at that problem?"

    In the Dominican Republic, voting is compulsory, the IDs are free, and voting takes place on May 20 every four years.

    "Why do we vote on a weekday when everyone's working?" she asked. "There are so many levels to this that have to be looked at. Voter ID is not one of the issues. Let's address the proper problem."

    Christopher Ott, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, added, "The fact that voter ID may be required in other countries and people may be used to it, makes no difference. The bigger problem is voter suppression."

    People like the elderly, the disabled, students, low-income residents and the unemployed may be discouraged from voting if they need to get a government-issued ID.

    Ott said there have been a lot of stories throughout the country in which voter ID laws have prevented people from voting.

    He said the most striking example is that of Ruthelle Frank, 84, of Wisconsin who was not able to vote under that state's strict new voter ID law. Frank was born at home in 1927 and does not have a birth certificate, but her mother recorded her birth in the family bible. Although she served on her village board since 1996, she was unable to get an ID when she needed to vote.

    "We're not making it up," he said. "New requirements keep valid voters away."

    Kevin Franck, communications director for the Massachusetts Democratic Party, agreed.

    "Voting is a right, not a privilege, and every step should be taken to ensure that all eligible citizens vote in every election," he said. "This means that registration should be made as easy as possible, polls should be safe and accessible, and no citizen should be denied access to the polls."

    The Rev. Roger Sawtelle, president of Merrimack Valley National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said the only time people should need to show an identification is if they had been placed on the inactive roll, there is a language barrier or people have similar names.

    "I have never had any problems with that when I've been working at the polls," said Sawtelle of Lowell. "Even during the last presidential elections when we had a record turnout, it worked very well. ... If there hasn't been a problem in the past, why anticipate a problem now? The U.S. is about getting everyone involved as much as possible. If people want to vote, they can, if they're citizens."
    Staff writer Bill Kirk contributed to this story.

    About TODAY's Dominican elections
    In the U.S., there are an estimated 6.5 million Dominican voters taking part in today's election.

    In Lawrence, there are close to 6,000 Dominicans eligible to vote, including 353 in Haverhill and 313 in Lowell. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there are 30,243 Dominicans living in Lawrence, 2,780 in Haverhill and 1,308 in Methuen.

    Since the last election, the number of new Dominican voters in Lawrence increased by more than 70 percent, prompting the Central Election Board to increase the number of voting booths in Lawrence from four to 10 at the polling place, located at the senior center on Haverhill Street.

    During the previous two elections, Dominicans in Haverhill and Lowell came to Lawrence to cast their ballots, but now have their own polling places at the Citizen Center on Welcome Street, Haverhill, and at the Royal School in Lowell.

    The election is paid for by the Dominican Central Election Board and the polling places are staffed by people who received training from the board just last week.

    Voting is compulsory in the Dominican Republic.

    Voter IDs, known as "cedulas," are free.
    Local Dominicans must have ID to vote today in homeland elections » Merrimack Valley », North Andover, MA
    Last edited by Newmexican; 05-20-2012 at 10:19 AM.
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