Virginia state house and senate pass bills limiting acceptable types of ID for voting

By David Ferguson
Wednesday, February 6, 2013 13:59 EDT
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On Tuesday, Virginia state senators voted along party lines to reduce the types of ID considered acceptable for voting in the state’s elections. According to the Lynchburg News and Advance, the evenly divided senate got a tie-breaking vote from Republican Lieutenant Gov. Bill Bolling.

If Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) passes and signs the bill, it will be the first major change to Virginia’s voter ID law in two years.

Senate Bill 719, sponsored by Sen. Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun) is slated to go into effect in 2014, but with a Democratically sponsored, taxpayer-funded voter education amendment. That bill and a companion bill from the state house, House Bill 1337, will invalidate previously accepted forms of ID as proof of voters’ eligibility. The items now rendered inadmissible include utility bills, pay stubs, bank statements, government checks and Social Security cards. The state will accept voter identification cards, concealed handgun permits, driver’s licenses and student ID cards.

Opponents of the legislation argue that Republicans are again trying to limit the ability of traditionally Democratic constituencies to cast a ballot. They say the new restrictions will disenfranchise the elderly, the poor, students and minorities.

“There are a lot of people who do not drive, do not have a concealed handgun permit, who are retired and do not have any form of employee identification,” said Democratic state house Del. Jennifer L. McClellan of Richmond. “All these people have is their voter registration card.”

McClellan also argued that vote fraud is not a significant problem in the state of Virginia. “We do not have any evidence of a lot of people showing up at the polls, pretending to be someone else,” she said.

Delegate Mark Cole (R-Spotsylvania), who sponsored the house bill, defended the new restrictions. “My bill takes a lot of weak forms of identification off the list,” he said.

Voter ID laws have met resistance from courts and electoral boards across the country. Virginia’s current voter ID law is already one of the strictest in the nation.

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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