Voters heading to the polls in Massachusetts would have to bring along photo identification if they approve a petition initiative to adopt voter identification requirements.
The petition initiative, filed by Mansfield selectman Olivier Kozlowski, would require all voters to present government-issued photo identification, such as a driver’s license or state identification card, before they get a ballot in state or local elections.
“In this day and age we’re asked to provide identification for anything and everything,’’ Kozlowski said. “Something as sacred as our ballot ought to make sure the person claiming to be John Doe is John Doe.’’
Currently, voters are not required to show identification at the polls.
Kozlowski submitted the petition, which he said is aimed at preventing voter fraud, to the state attorney general’s office last week and will need to collect nearly 69,000 signatures from registered voters by mid-November to put the referendum on the 2012 state ballot.
Kozlowski did not know of any specific instances of voter fraud in Massachusetts, but at least 30 other states, including Rhode Island, have approved some form of identification requirement aimed at preventing fraud.
Opponents of such requirements said voter fraud is rare and that requiring government-issued identification discourages certain voters. Those voters include the poor, the elderly, or people with disabilities who might not have a license or passport and have fewer opportunities to obtain a state-issued identification card at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
“The real issue isn’t fraud; it’s getting people to the polls to vote,’’ said Eva Valentine, president of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.
An ID requirement could be a barrier to voter participation, Valentine said.
Instead, Valentine said, training for poll workers and the state’s database system of registered voters should be improved to ensure fair, open elections.
Representative Jay Barrows, a Mansfield Republican who signed the petition, said requiring identification is a simple, reasonable way to ensure the integrity of elections. Voters should at least be required to show a utility bill or government check to verify their identity, Barrows said.