April 16, 2012 - ESCONDIDO: Waldron wants city to require ID to vote
Source: North County Times
Title: ESCONDIDO: Waldron wants city to require ID to vote
Date: April 16, 2012
By David Garrick
Councilwoman Marie Waldron says she wants Escondido to become the first city in California to require photo identification to vote in city elections.
Waldron said she will ask her colleagues on Wednesday to add such a requirement to a city charter that Escondido plans to put on the ballot in November. She criticized California election law, which requires only that people sign their names to vote, and said her goal was preventing fraud.
Waldron said she also wants to add language to the charter requiring Escondido to balance its budget each year.
The American Civil Liberties Union criticized Waldron's voting proposal Monday.
"This would be the functional equivalent of a poll tax," said Lori Shellenberger, civic engagement attorney for the ACLU's San Diego chapter. "It would be saying that you can't vote in Escondido anymore if you can't afford a photo ID."
Shellenberger also suggested that Waldron was targeting Latinos, who make up 49 percent of Escondido's population.
"I think it's very suspicious in a city with a history of passing legislation hostile to immigrants," Shellenberger said.
Shellenberger was referring to a failed attempt in 2006 to prohibit landlords from renting to illegal immigrants; a day labor ordinance proposed in 2008 but never adopted; and an abandoned effort to restrict parking in inner-city neighborhoods where many Latino families share houses and apartments. Waldron supported all three initiatives.
Shellenberger said requiring photo ID would prevent more Latinos from voting than whites because more Latinos are poor, making it harder to afford a driver's license, which costs $31, or state identification card, which costs $26.
In addition, many Latinos take the bus instead of driving to save money, giving them less incentive to get a driver's license than wealthier whites, she said.
"It's a poverty issue," Shellenberger said.
Seniors would also be affected, because surveys show that 1 in 5 seniors lacks photo ID, she said.
Waldron said that she didn't want to prevent anyone from voting if he or she had a legal right, but that she was worried the state's voting policies weren't strict enough.
Eleven U.S. states require photo ID, and 20 others require voters to present some form of identification.
But California is among those states with no voter identification laws. The Assembly rejected two bills last year that would have required photo ID to vote.
Waldron said she has heard about voting fraud where people from outside a city arrive on Election Day and vote as someone else.
"We don't know if people are being bused in to vote," Waldron said. "You hear about places where people have to cast provisional ballots because someone already voted under their name earlier in the day."
Shellenberger and the county registrar of voters said there have been no documented cases of election fraud in the state, let alone the city.
But Waldron said even small cases of fraud were a problem.
"I'm not saying we have rampant fraud, but I don't want any fraud at all," she said.
Registrar Deborah Seiler said Monday that Waldron's proposal could create problems for her staff because they've been trained to require only signatures.
She said the change would work better if an election involved only Escondido voters, such as a local special election.
But requiring photo ID during an election that also involved offices outside Escondido, such as president or governor, wouldn't work "in a consolidated election," Seiler said. "It would only happen for their local elections."
City Attorney Jeff Epp said Monday that he hadn't explored Waldron's proposal thoroughly enough to know what legal or logistical hurdles it might face.
"We've only looked at it in a limited fashion," said Epp, adding that his staff would study the proposal more carefully if Waldron gets support from at least two colleagues on the five-member council during Wednesday's hearing.
Epp said he also was unsure how Waldron's proposed balanced-budget requirement would work. He said it would probably prohibit the council from adopting a balanced budget that relied on the use of reserves, and would require instead that council members adopt a budget in which expenses and revenues were equal.
Waldron said that's essentially what she had in mind, hailing the council for adopting a balanced budget for the first time in four years last summer.
"We've achieved this already, so there's no reason to go back," she said.
Escondido officials have spent more than a year discussing whether they should switch from being a "general law" city to a charter city, which would increase their power over whichever functions the charter addresses.
The initial charter they discussed last year focused on exempting the city from paying union wages, but those proposals have hit legal and legislative roadblocks. So Waldron said she decided recently to shift the focus of the charter to voter ID and balancing the city budget.
© Copyright 2012, North County Times, Escondido, CA