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Indiana nuns turned away for lack of picture ID

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Indiana nuns lacking ID denied at poll by fellow sister Posted by The Associated Press May 06, 2008 13:18PM

About 12 Indiana nuns were turned away Tuesday from a polling place by a fellow bride of Christ because they didn't have state or federal identification bearing a photograph.

Sister Julie McGuire said she was forced to turn away her fellow sisters at Saint Mary's Convent in South Bend, across the street from the University of Notre Dame, because they had been told earlier that they would need such an ID to vote.

The nuns, all in their 80s or 90s, didn't get one but came to the precinct anyway.

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"One came down this morning, and she was 98, and she said, 'I don't want to go do that,'" Sister McGuire said. Some showed up with outdated passports. None of them drives.

They weren't given provisional ballots because it would be impossible to get them to a motor vehicle branch and back in the 10-day time frame allotted by the law, Sister McGuire said. "You have to remember that some of these ladies don't walk well. They're in wheelchairs or on walkers or electric carts."

Nonetheless, she said, the convent will make a "very concerted effort" to get proper identification for the nuns in time for the general election. "We're going to take from now until November to get them out and get this done. You can't do this like school kids on a bus," she said. "I wish we could."

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Elsewhere across the pivotal state, voting appeared to run smoothly, despite the fears of election experts that the Supreme Court's recent refusal to strike down Indian's controversial photo identification law could cause confusion at the polls.

A voter hot line set up by the secretary of state's office had no complaints regarding photo IDs as of 3 p.m., said spokeswoman Bethany Derringer. In a primary expected to draw record numbers, most calls concerned precinct locations.

"The No. 1 call they've heard so far is just people asking where they can go to vote," Derringer said.

But a group of voting rights advocates that established a separate hot line reported receiving several calls from would-be voters who were turned away at precincts because they did not have a state or federal identification bearing a photograph.

One newly married woman said she was told she couldn't vote because her driver's license name didn't match the one on her voter registration record, said Myrna Perez of the Brennan Center Justice at New York University's law school, coordinator of the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hot line. Another woman said she was turned away from casting her first-ever ballot because she had only a college-issued ID card and an out-of-state driver's license, Perez said.

"These laws are confusing. People don't know how they're supposed to be applied," she said.

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Indiana's photo ID law is the strictest in the country. The Republican-led effort was designed to combat ballot fraud, said supporters, who also have acknowledged that no case involving someone impersonating a voter at the polls has ever been prosecuted in Indiana.

The state's American Civil Liberties Union sued, calling the law a poll tax that disproportionately affected minorities and elderly voters, those most likely to lack such identification. On April 28, the Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 that the law did not violate the Constitution.

Since then, advocacy groups have fretted that people showing up to vote in Tuesday's primary would not understand their rights under the law, which include being able to cast a provisional ballot and obtain a proper ID within 10 days so that ballot would be counted later.

Rick Rice, a precinct judge at the Charles Martin Youth Center in South Bend, said one person complained about the voter ID law when he attempted to use a federal identification that didn't have an expiration date on it.

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