The Republican governor of Virginia on Tuesday signed a law requiring that voters present photo identification in order to vote.
Gov. Bob McDonnell said that HB 1337 was an effort to make elections “less subject to fraud,” but voting rights advocates claimed that the law would suppress the rights of elderly and minority voters, who tend to vote Democratic and are less likely to have photo identification.
In an executive order, McDonnell also directed the Board of Elections to educate the public before the law becomes effective in 2014.
“These efforts have made our electoral system less subject to fraud, but we must continue to look for ways to further address any vulnerabilities in our system,” according to the executive order.
McDonnell said the new law “continues that mission, providing a process for individuals to obtain free photo identification cards and requiring that acceptable identification with a photo of the voter be provided on Election Day in order to vote.”
The executive order added that the availability of provisional ballots “provides an opportunity to present identification to local electoral boards by multiple means of transmission after the election.”
A report from The Commonwealth Institute found that as many as 869,000 Virginia voters could need photo IDs, with upper estimates costing the state over $20 million. The Virginia Department of Planning and Budget, however, predicted that only 4,200 voters would need ID cards, only costing $200,000 over a four year period.
Earlier this month, the ACLU of Virginia urged McDonnell to veto the photo ID legislation.
“[F]ollowing an election with long lines but no instances of fraud, we are looking at legislation that imposes even stricter ID requirements that are unnecessary and will be burdensome, particularly for voters who are elderly, racial and ethnic minorities, students, persons with disabilities, and low-income,” ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga wrote in a letter to the governor. “Not only is a photo ID requirement unnecessary and onerous for hundreds of thousands of voters, it is also a costly proposal for taxpayers.”
A study by researchers from University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis previewed by Politico earlier this month showed that young minorities were much more likely to have been hurt by voter ID laws imposed by states prior to the 2012 election.
Researchers found that 17.3 percent of black youth and 8.1 percent of Latino youth decided not to vote because of a lack of valid identification. Only 4.7 percent of white youth said they did not go to the polls because of ID concerns.
[Photo: Gage Skidmore]