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Registered voters in Southern Maryland overwhelmingly support the idea of a Maryland voter identification law requiring people to show ID before voting, according to a recent opinion poll.

The Pulse of Southern Maryland, a phone survey conducted by student volunteers at the College of Southern Maryland during five days in November, found that 76 percent of respondents answered yes when asked, “Do you think voters should have to show a photo ID in order to vote?”

Support for such a requirement ran highest in Calvert County, at 81 percent, and lowest in Charles County, at 72 percent. St. Mary’s County fell in the middle with 77 percent support.

People who voted in the 2012 general election were more likely to support such a law than were nonvoters, by 77 to 68 percent, results show. So were wealthier people. Eighty-two percent of those who reported annual household incomes of more than $100,000 expressed support, compared with 68 percent of those with incomes of up to $30,000.

The trend with age was less clear. Support for a voter ID law rose with age from 67 percent among those 18 to 24 to 86 percent of people aged 40 to 49. It then declined again, with only 72 percent of those 60 and older in support.

However, fewer younger and lower-income people responded to the survey, making the results less reliable than those for the older and wealthier groups.

Cathy Kelleher, an activist for a Maryland voter ID law, said she was not surprised by the results of the poll, which conform to what she has found more generally throughout the country. Her organization, Election Integrity Maryland, has found dead people on voter rolls during a review of about 1 percent of all registered voters in the state, she said.

“We have actually found and identified people that are dead that voted after their date of death,” Kelleher said.

But Meredith Curtis, spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, said fraud is nonexistent.

“It’s important to understand that photo ID requirements on election day are what we would call a solution in search of a problem. There are no instances of individuals trying to pretend to be other people in order to vote. So, we see no threat to democracy. We see the only threat to democracy would be to instate voter ID requirements because they would in fact disenfranchise many minority voters here in Maryland. And the impact would be disproportionately on those who are poor, elderly and minority, which is unacceptable,” Curtis said.

Members of these groups are less likely to have an ID card of the type likely to be required, and a study in Pennsylvania found “tens of thousands of people who didn’t have, who wouldn’t have had, an appropriate ID,” Curtis said. She added that voter fraud is “a phantom threat to democracy,” while excluding voters without IDs from the polls would be a real threat.

Kelleher disagreed, saying most people have some form of acceptable identification.

“That’s an argument that’s been circulating for a very long time. It’s absolutely, categorically untrue. First of all, they have, the state issues SNAP [food stamp] cards if they’re on welfare. There’s no reason the SNAP card couldn’t have identical information on it that could be used for voter registration,” Kelleher said. “The people that they’re saying are being discriminated against, there’s no evidence of it.”

The Pulse survey also found that older Southern Marylanders, and those with higher household income, were substantially more likely to vote. For instance, 91 percent of those older than 50, and 97 percent with annual incomes more than $100,000, said they went to the polls. In contrast, only 58 percent of respondents ages 18 to 29, and 67 percent with incomes of up to $30,000, said they voted.

emitrano@somdnews.com