By: Tom Duggan (originally published on tommyduggan.com 05/19/03)
The Lawrence City Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday night on a proposal to require all Lawrence residents to show photo identification before they vote … just as Lawrence residents who are Dominican citizens must show n ID when they vote in Lawrence for the Dominican elections.
For the past year, the Voter Fraud Prevention Committee (of which I am a member) has been meeting in the Mayor’s office, researching how best to implement a voter identification system and how to get around the political obstacles to make it work.
Co-chaired by City Councilor Marie Gosselin (and Tom Duggan), the committee has met with the Secretary of State’s office as well as the City Attorney and other officials to determine the best way to go about educating the public and changing the city charter.
The committee, formed by Mayor Mike Sullivan, has determined that the city will have to provide every voter with a picture identification card free of charge. Superintendent Wilfredo Laboy has offered to donate the equipment used for photo identification cards at Lawrence High, which will eliminate most of the cost to produce and distribute the cards.
Voters will need to present the card when they vote starting next year (2004). Those who show up at the polls this year will be asked to show an ID, but if the voter cannot provide one they will be allowed to vote.
The City Council is expected to pass the measure with Council President, Marcos Devers already on record as favoring it.
As interim mayor, Devers valiantly spearheaded the effort to implement voter identification to ensure fair elections for everyone and prevent the endless accusations of fraud which plague Lawrence elections every year.
Devers’ efforts to ensure fair elections was thwarted when an ethnically charged group called “Oesta” challenged his efforts in court claiming it was racist and unfair to Latinos. Despite the fact that Devers is a Latino and everyone in the city who votes will be required to show an ID, some members of the Latino community also used race to create division in the community and stop the requirement.
The judge who heard the case stopped Devers in his tracks saying he hadn’t given voters enough time to get an ID prior to Election Day. Devers has steadfastly supported the idea of fair elections and is expected to be a vocal when the issue is discussed by the council Tuesday evening.
If passed by the Council, a home rule petition will be sent to the House of Representatives requesting that the phrase “…and require photo identification…” be added to the city charter regarding voter requirements.
One of those who most vocally opposed Voter ID last time around is now threatening to kill the measure this time around as well. Now, as a State Representative, Willie Lantigua originally said he is not against voter ID per-se, but rather, objects to the way it is being brought about. A stark contrast to his Anti-voter ID stand last year.
Lantigua said that he believes the details on process and procedure must be in place before he will support a home rule petition to change the city charter. He also wants those procedures to be part of the home rule petition to be voted on by the House. Voter Fraud Prevention Committee Co-chair Marie Gosselin and committee member Dorothy Incropera say Lantigua is just trying to stall the implementation of Voter ID because he is playing politics.
Lantigua has taken to the airwaves in Spanish language radio claiming that the only reason “Anglos” want to implement Voter ID is because they hate Latinos. He makes no reference in his interviews to the fact that Devers supports and spearheads the measure.
Regardless of Lantigua’s motives, he has actively sought to kill the measure by refusing to submit the changes to the House of Representatives on behalf of the voters of Lawrence.
Lantigua also says he will vote against it at The State House. Lantigua has even lobbied fellow Reps. Barry Finegold and David Torrisi to oppose the bill. Traditionally, the House of Representatives has rejected home rule petitions if the majority of the Representatives from that city or town do not support it.
“I find it interesting that Torissi and Finegold supported changing residency against the wishes of the people, saying they supported those changes because the Council and the Mayor were behind them, even though Jose Santiago (then the State Rep) opposed changing residency” Dorothy Incropera said on the Paying Attention! radio program.
“But now that the Mayor and the Council favor a home rule petition on Voter ID, Torrisi and Finegold are deferring to Lawrence Representative Willie Lantigua who opposes this. What hypocrites!”
Incropera says she is not going to stop putting pressure on Torrisi and Finegold until they come to their senses and support Voter ID.
“I am suspect of any elected official who doesn’t support fair elections, as far as I’m concerned the only people who oppose this are those who benefit from voter fraud,” Incropera said.
Councilor Gosselin said she spoke to Torrisi and that he will oppose the measure, in part because of the people on the committee who support voter ID, proving once again that he cares more about settling personal scores than he does what is best for the City of Lawrence.
Mounting pressure from voter ID committee members and Lawrence City Councilors will make it hard for Torrisi and Finegold to oppose the home rule petition in the end. But never underestimate the power of State Representative William Lantigua who buys support by promising them Dominican votes come election time.
Representative Willie Lantigua announced at the last Voter ID meeting that he was opposed to the present proposal and planned to present his own to the City Council. Since the only issue before the Council Tuesday night will be the current proposal, it is expected that the Council will hear Lantigua’s opinions but not consider a separate proposal.
The process of implementation and administration of a Voter ID program is a local control issue to be decided by local officials and not within the purview of the House of Representatives. Still, Lantigua said he wants all the procedures to go to the State House with a home rule petition, (mainly so he cal kill it). That idea was rejected by the majority of the Voter ID committee.
Former State Representative Jose Santiago says he is 100% in support of voter ID and plans on testifying about the fraud he says occurred last year when he was defeated by Lantigua.
Residents who want to be heard on this issue can speak before the Council on Tuesday evening at City Hall, 200 Common Street. The meeting begins at 7pm.
ID’s will not be required