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A Scorecard on the Voter ID Bills

January 31, 2012

By Zack Budryk
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – At least a half-dozen bills before the General Assembly are causing alarm among voting rights activists.

They see the proposals as part of a broader trend in state legislatures across country. Last year, lawmakers in states such as Ohio, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Tennessee passed laws requiring voters to show more identification before voting.

Critics say those laws disenfranchise low-income, elderly and student voters.

“There is legislation [in the assembly] that will erect barriers to people registering to vote, get in a ballot or even trying to assist somebody else who’s voting,” said Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, who chairs the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

Delegate Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, said she believes the more stringent identification requirements would suppress voter turnout. She questioned the need for such legislation.

“There’s no evidence that there’s been voter fraud, and that’s what its proponents say it’s going to help – prevent voter fraud,” Herring said.

Under existing law in Virginia, in order to vote, you must show a voter registration card, a Social Security card, a valid Virginia driver’s license, a government identification card or an employee identification card with a photo.

If you don’t have any of those forms of identification, you still can vote – but you must sign an affidavit swearing that you are a registered voter.

Here are the bills before the General Assembly that would change those rules:

   – House Bill 9, sponsored by Delegate Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg. It says that if you
      don’t have acceptable identification, you would cast a “provisional ballot,” which
      would be counted after your identification has been verified. The House tentatively
     approved HB 9 on Tuesday; a final vote is scheduled for Wednesday. 

   – Senate Bill 1, by Sen. Stephen Martin, R-Chesterfield. It would remove the voter
     registration card from the list of valid forms of identification that you could show at
     your polling place. Like HB 9, this bill says that if you don’t have identification, you
     would cast a provisional ballot. The Senate Privileges and Elections voted 8-7 on
     Tuesday in favor of SB 1. It now goes to the full Senate.

   – HB 1084, by Delegate Timothy Hugo, R-Centreville. It would require you to show a 
     photo ID to vote. If you couldn’t, you’d cast a provisional ballot. This bill is before the
     House Privileges and Elections Committee. 

   – HB 569, by Delegate Daniel Marshall, R-Danville. It would require voters to provide
     proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, a U.S. passport or naturalization
     documents. This bill has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

   – HB 828, by Delegate Bob Marshall, R-Manassas. It would also require proof of
     citizenship. The House Privileges and Elections Committee is considering this

   – SB 55, by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg. It contains the “provisional ballot”
     idea. This bill was folded into SB 1.

One bill would expand, not narrow, the kind of identification that you could show at the polls. It is SB 663, by Sen. Ralph Smith, R-Roanoke. His measure “adds concealed handgun permits to the list of acceptable forms of identification to vote.”

The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee voted 14-1 Tuesday for SB 663.

This CNS article was published by Williamsburg Yorktown Daily.