Bill changes voter identification requirements

Regulations pass Virginia Senate, House of Delegates, eliminate certain acceptable IDs

The Virginia Senate and the House of Delegates both passed a bill Tuesday that would limit the number of acceptable voter identification materials.

The measure eliminates utility bills, bank statements, government checks and paychecks as acceptable forms of identification at the voting booth.

Under the legislation, introduced by Sen. Richard Black, R-Leesburg, in December, the only acceptable forms of identification are employee or university student ID cards, driver’s licenses, voter registration cards, concealed handgun permits and other forms of government-issued identification.

“The primary purpose of the bill was to solidify and strengthen the voting process here in Virginia,” Black’s legislative aide Chris Lore said. “Frankly, some of these things are so easy to forge, the fear was that the voting process wouldn’t be secure.”

The Senate approved a Democrat-backed amendment to the bill Monday which delays the bill’s implementation until July 2014, following Lieut. Gov. Bill Bolling’s controversial tiebreaking vote.

Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, who first proposed the amendment, warned that this bill might ultimately disenfranchise potential voters, and wanted at least to ensure enough time to educate voters on what forms of identification would be acceptable under the new law.

“Voting is the most basic right in a democracy,” McEachin said in an e-mail. “I am very disappointed that my Republican colleagues insist on putting up needless obstacles and hurdles.”

Opponents to voter identification laws often suggest these types of legislative initiatives disproportionately affect subsets of the voting population.

“It’s a relatively well-known fact that low-income, minority and elderly voters are less likely to have some of the identification options that are permitted by this bill,” Center for Politics spokesperson Geoff Skelley said. “So it’s possible that there may be some voters in the future who have difficulty voting on Election Day due to the increasingly stringent requirements featured in this bill.”

Supporters of the bill say such concerns were unwarranted.

“One of the primary pieces of identification that you can use is your voter identification card,” Lore said. “When you register to vote, that card is mailed directly to you at no cost … It’s just a matter of people keeping track of what is given to them.”

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