Virginia Republicans Advance Voter ID Legislation
By Jim Malewitz, Staff Writer
Virginia Republicans are moving forward with plans to tighten voter ID laws for the second time in two years.
The state Senate passed legislation Tuesday (February 5) that would require voters to show photo identification at the polls. Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, a Republican, cast the tie-breaking vote in the split-controlled chamber.
Also this week, both chambers passed bills that would shorten the list of acceptable identification for voters, eliminating options to show a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or a Social Security card.
In Virginia and in other states, Republicans have picked up where they left off last year on efforts to tighten voting requirements — changes critics describe as bald-faced attempts to suppress turnout and disenfranchise poor and minority voters who are more likely to vote for Democrats. As Stateline has reported, as many as 12 states are weighing such measures this year, making it likely more states will have stricter requirements in 2014 than there were in 2012. That comes as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on a pair of cases.
Republicans say the changes are necessary to ensure the integrity of elections, even though there is no proof of widespread fraud at the polls.
If passed and signed by the governor, the Virginia measures would go into effect in 2014.
Although Bolling, as a tie-breaking vote, has keyed the overhaul effort, he has cautioned legislators against pursuing further changes in the coming years.
“I think it is a reasonable effort to tighten voter identification requirements and assure greater integrity in the voting process,” he said in a statement Monday. “However, we just changed Virginia's voter ID requirements in 2012, and we cannot change these requirements every year. I am concerned that this would create unnecessary confusion among voters about what forms of ID are required at the polls.”
Last year, the state spent some $2 million educating voters on new identification rules signed into law by Governor Bob McDonnell. That law required voters to present certain forms of identification at the polls. Those without identification could still cast provisional ballots.