Virginia House Delegate Mark Cole (R) said this week that he’s readying proposals for the next legislative session that will ban the use of bank statements, utility bills and paycheck stubs as identification at the polls.
His proposals would force individuals without the appropriate identification to fill out a provisional ballot and later prove to officials that they are in fact a registered voter and a citizen in order for that vote to count.
Virginia is one of the states covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, singled out for its history of racial discrimination as a matter of public policy. That special designation requires officials there to seek approval by the Justice Department before making any major changes to voting laws.
Virginia’s current voter ID law was given preclearance by the Justice Department because it allows so many different types of documents as identification and does not appear to discriminate against the poor, elderly, disabled or students, all of whom are more likely than the general population to not carry a government-issued identification.
In addition, Virginia’s voter ID law was thought to be different because the state spent millions to send each voter a newly-issued voter ID card — a stark contrast to other states that have passed similar laws, nearly all of which place the burden upon voters to procure the license.
Although many Republicans claim that the threat of an orchestrated campaign of “voter fraud” is a clear and present danger, studies show the phenomenon is relatively rare. On the contrary, the Brennan Center for Justice warned in 2011 that restrictive voter ID laws in 13 states may serve more to suppress voter turnout rather than guard against fraud.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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