By Burl Rolett
Virginia voters will need to carry valid identification to the polls if a string of voter ID bills become law.
National Republicans say the proposed bills prevent voter fraud, but Democrats call the effort a solution without a problem. They say the bills would suppress voting by minority and elderly citizens.
“I’m unaware of a problem we need to fix,” said Joe Skovira, Rockbridge County Democratic Committee Chair and Election Officer. “Sounds like voter discouragement to me.”
Senate Bill 1, which passed the state Senate last week, will require voters who do not bring valid identification to the polls to cast a provisional ballot. The bill matches House Bill 9, which passed earlier
SB 1 will now go to Gov. Bob McDonnell for his signature or veto. McDonnell has not publicly taken a stand on the bill.
Currently, voters without identification can cast an official ballot after signing a sworn statement affirming their identity at the voting booth. SB 1 would end that practice and make voters without
identification cast a provisional ballot. Electoral boards would review provisional ballots the day after the election at a public meeting. Voters would have to show a valid identification to the election board at that meeting for the provisional ballots to be counted.
The bill recognizes a variety of identification methods. A voter registration card, social security card, driver’s license, government-issued ID card or a student ID card issued by a four-year college in
Virginia would all suffice. Documents with the voter’s current address, such as utility bills, paychecks or bank statements, also fill the bill’s requirements.
The Virginia Senate passed SB 1 by a 21-20 vote. The vote split along party lines, with 20 Republicans in favor and 20 Democrats against. Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling cast the tiebreaking vote.
Sen. Creigh Deeds, whose district includes Lexington and Buena Vista, voted against the bill. Rep. Ben Cline voted for the matching bill in the House.
A House committee is discussing a third bill, HB 569. It would require voters to present a photo ID to cast an official ballot. Virginia chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and AARP have voiced opposition to the proposed legislation.
“Every indication is that elderly persons, low-income persons and racial minorities – who have the same constitutional right to vote as everyone else – will be the most affected by this law,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis in a statement.
Voter ID laws have become a hot topic in the 2012 presidential election.
In 2008, only two states required a photo ID at the polls. By last year, six more had added such laws.
Last year, the Virginia House of Delegates passed a voter ID bill similar to SB 1, but it died in a Democrat-controlled Senate.
Virginia is one of 24 states considering new or strengthened voter identification laws this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. If passed, many will take effect before the
The U.S. Justice Department last December shot down a South Carolina law requiring a photo ID at the polls. Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez said it was not consistent with Article 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires jurisdictions to prove that new laws will not abridge the right to vote on account of race.
If McDonnell signs SB 1, then the Justice Department must make sure the bill complies with the Voting Rights Act before it is enacted.
View Voter ID Bills in 2012 in a full screen map