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ID law keeps nuns, students from polls

CAMPAIGN '08: INDIANA AND NORTH CAROLINA PRIMARIES

Indiana requires photo identification. The sisters didn't have any, and some students are finding it tricky to get.

May 07, 2008|Scott Martelle | Times Staff Writer

A dozen nuns and an unknown number of students were turned away from polls Tuesday in the first use of Indiana's stringent voter ID law since it was upheld last week by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The nuns, all residents of a retirement home at Saint Mary's Convent near Notre Dame University, were denied ballots by a fellow sister and poll worker because the women, in their 80s and 90s, did not have valid Indiana photo ID cards.

Though state officials reported no significant problems, advocates monitoring polling places said there was occasional confusion.

"We were at one polling place for a few hours and picked up three or four different stories of people being turned away," said Gary Kalman of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group in Washington. "I don't have numbers about how widespread it is."

"It's the law, and it makes it hard," said Sister Julie McGuire, who was working at the polling place and had to explain to the nuns that they could not vote. "Some don't understand why."

Indiana requires voters who come to the polls show a photo ID issued by the state or the federal government. The law was pressed by Republicans citing voter fraud and opposed by Democrats and the ACLU, who argued that it would disenfranchise voters.

The law does not recognize out-of-state driver's licenses, a problem for college students who under Indiana law must intend to live in their college communities to vote, which involves obtaining an Indiana ID.

Angela Hiss, 19, of suburban Chicago, said she was allowed to register to vote several weeks ago but was turned away Tuesday from a polling site in South Bend, where she attends Notre Dame. Hiss said officials at a local motor vehicles office then would not accept her Illinois license as proof of identification for an Indiana license.

And Hiss didn't have her birth certificate -- she had sent it to the federal Passport Service offices recently along with her application for a passport.

Hiss declined to cast a provisional ballot because she's leaving for Illinois after finals on Friday.

But she can add her story to family lore that includes her aunt's going to a Chicago polling site years ago and being told that her mother had voted earlier that day.

"She said, 'My mother's dead,' " Hiss said.

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scott.martelle@latimes.com

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