The photo ID requirement will not kick in until 2014, and all college, Rhode Island and federally issued IDs will be accepted under the law. The state will provide free IDs to those who don't have one and will allow those without IDs to cast provisional ballots.
Politically, the situation in Rhode Island was much different than in other states which have passed voter ID laws this year. Both chambers are controlled by Democrats and the bill was introduced in the Senate by a Democrat and sponsored in both chambers by members of both parties, reports Reuters. Democratic governors in the states of North Carolina, Montana, Missouri, Minnesota and New Hampshire have all vetoed voter ID laws this year, Reuters notes.
Oddly, Chafee signed the bill on Saturday but waited until Wednesday to announce he had done so, after word had gotten out to the Rhode Island Tea Party.
Chafee's statement on his signing of the bill included statements from an African-American state legislator who supported the measure.
"As a minority citizen and a senior citizen I would not support anything that I thought would present obstacles or limit protections," Sen. Harold Metts (D) said in the statement. "But in this day and age, very few adults lack one of the forms of identification that will be accepted, and the rare person who does can get a free voter ID card from the Secretary of State. While I'm sensitive to the concerns raised, at this point I am more interested in doing the right thing and stopping voter fraud. Hesitation based on potential ramifications of what may or may not happen at the expense of the integrity of the system is no longer an option."
Chafee's announcement came the day that former President Bill Clinton compared the Republican-lead efforts to pass new restrictions on voting to the Jim Crow laws of the past.