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Usually, as Election Day draws closer, it’s the candidates who get more and more scrutiny. But one of the new wrinkles in American politics in 2012 has been not just the fight over who is running, but who will be voting.
Over the past few years, several states have enacted voter-identification laws that Republicans claim will help prevent voter fraud and Democrats claim will disenfranchise poor and minority -- and mostly Democratic -- voters.
Rhode Island’s 2011 voter-identification law has become a bit player in that debate. Republican commentators regularly cite it to push back against the partisan accusations, noting that the law was passed by the overwhelmingly Democratic Rhode Island General Assembly.
And that’s exactly what conservative pundit Ann Coulter did Thursday on ABC’s "The View." When View cohost Joy Behar suggested voter-identification legislation seemed aimed at the poor and minorities, Coulter was ready.
"One of the first states in the union to pass voter ID bill was Rhode Island, 85 percent Democratic legislature," she said. "And who pushed it? A black Democrat in the house, a black Democrat in the senate. That's a fact!"
We look at Coulter’s one-of-the-first claim in a separate item; here we examine the claims of minority legislative support.
And the facts show Coulter is right.
In the Rhode Island Senate, the bill’s main sponsor was Sen. Harold Metts, D-Providence, an African-American. The House version was co-sponsored by House Speaker Gordon Fox, the first black lawmaker to lead the state lower chamber, among others.
Further, the bill got a crucial boost when state Rep. Anastasia Williams, D-Providence, who is of African -American and Panamanian descent, also supported it.
She testified about how she suspected someone had voted in her name in 2006 (no complaint was filed) and how she’d once seen a man vote twice at her local polling place.
Their support came despite aggressive lobbying against the bill by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union, Ocean State Action and the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights.
It passed the House 54 to 21 and the Senate 27 to 6, with five not voting.
Ann Coulter said the voter-identification passed by the Rhode Island legislature was pushed by black senators and representatives. In fact, in both the House and the Senate, black legislators strongly supported the bill.
We rule her statement True.
The View,"Ann Coulter causes mass hysteria on ‘The View,’ Whoopi bleeped..."Sept. 27, 2012, accessed Oct. 2, 2012
National Council of State Legislatures,"Voter Identification Requirements,"accessed Oct. 2, 2012
Interview: Jennie Bower, senior fellow, National Council of State Legislatures, Oct. 1, 2012.
Rhode Island General Laws,"Conduct of Election and Voting Equipment, and Supplies," 17-19-24.2
The Providence Journal, "Voter-ID measure had broad backing; Bills similar to the one signed by Governor Chafee opposed by minorities, Democrats elsewhere," July 7, 2011
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