Voter ID: What It’s Like for the People Who Work the Polls

'Quite frankly, voter fraud to me is a false argument, in my experience and observation.'

'Quite frankly, voter fraud to me is a false argument, in my experience and observation.'

Kathy Kennedy, poll worker at the Collins Garden library in San Antonio.
Kathy Kennedy, poll worker at the Collins Garden library in San Antonio.  Jen Reel

SAN ANTONIO — When I visited the Collins Garden Library polling station in San Antonio on Election Day, it clearly displayed posters spelling out that registered voters could cast a ballot without a photo ID. That was a change from the early voting period, when the polling station was one of several cited in a complaint by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) for failing to note that people who didn’t have photo IDs could still vote as long as they signed an affidavit stating that they were unable to get a photo ID.

Kathy Kennedy, a poll worker at the station, said that she wasn’t posted at Collins Garden Library during early voting and couldn’t speak to why poll workers might have tried to enforce an outdated photo ID requirement during early voting.

She said that as of 4:30 pm, they hadn’t received any voters without a photo ID. Mostly, Kennedy said, workers have had to turn people away because Collins Garden wasn’t in their precinct. (On voting day, Bexar County requires that people vote at polling stations in their precinct.)

Kennedy laid out a succinct argument for why folks might not have been able to get a photo ID in time for the election and dismissed the widely discredited argument from Republican politicians that not enforcing a photo ID requirement might increase voter fraud.

“When you look at the photo ID, it’s a driver’s license, it’s an Election Identification Certificate from DPS, and people will say, ‘What’s so hard about getting that?’” she said. “When you’re an elderly person or an impoverished person, or you’re physically disabled, just to run down the street and hop on the bus is no easy task. What appears to you to be easy, it’s not easy.”

Kennedy said that wealthier folks lack awareness of how people “out of their San Antonio gated community” live.

“The person who has a car, who has a house, who has the income, who isn’t working three jobs, who doesn’t have children to raise, that’s who says that,” she said.

Kennedy also said there were a number of checks and balances in place to prevent voter fraud. For instance, when an elderly person who has already voted through a mail-in ballot comes into the polling station, the database available to poll workers indicates in red that the person has already voted, she said. That prevents them from being allowed to vote again.

“Quite frankly, voter fraud to me is a false argument, in my experience and observation,” she said.

Read the rest of the Observer‘s Election Day 2016 coverage here.

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Naveena Sadasivam is a staff writer covering the environment, energy and climate change at Grist. She previously covered environmental issues at the Texas Observer, InsideClimate News and ProPublica. At ProPublica, she was part of a team that reported on the water woes of the West, a project that was a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist for national reporting. She has a degree in chemical engineering and a master’s in environmental and science reporting from New York University and was a 2017 Ida B. Wells fellow at Type Investigations. You can contact her at [email protected] and follow her work on Twitter.

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