Senate passes Republican-backed voter ID bill
Law requires photo identification, disproportionately impacts Democrat voters
Lieut. Gov. Bill Bolling broke a 20-20 tie in the Virginia Senate Friday to pass a Republican-backed voter ID law. The bill, sponsored by Del. Mark Cole, R-Fredricksburg, joins another by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, in calling for stricter voter ID requirements.
Bolling, who presides over the Senate, earlier this month broke a tie vote in Cole’s bill to pass a Democrat-backed amendment, which delayed the implementation of the proposed changes until 2014. Bolling also broke a tie in a vote on Obenshain’s bill earlier this month,
Cole’s bill allows only voter registration cards, Social Security cards, driver’s licenses, government-issued IDs and photo workplace IDs to be accepted as forms of identification.
Obenshain’s bill would take a stricter approach, requiring photo identification. Acceptable forms of ID include a government-issued photo ID that includes their address, a photo ID from a Virginia college or university, or a workplace ID featuring a photo. Under his proposal, the state would provide free voter registration cards with photographs to individuals without other acceptable photo IDs.
Obenshain contended the bill was necessary to answer questions of voter integrity and to inspire confidence in the election process.
“Our entire democratic process is predicated on a near-universal acceptance of election results as legitimate and expressive of the will of the people,” Obenshain said in a press release. “If that confidence is waning — and it is — then we have a serious problem on our hands.”
Democrats disagree, saying Republicans are interested in making it harder for people who disagree with them to vote.
These voter ID laws will disproportionately impact Democrat voters, said Geoffrey Skelly, spokesperson for the University’s Center for Politics. “The ones most affected [by the law] are going to be the least likely to know about it,” Skelley said.
Republicans, Democrats claim, are attempting to confuse Virginia’s voters and suppress the vote.
“[The law is] a radical and overreaching agenda on Virginia voters,” Virginia Senate Democrats spokesperson Joshua Karp said in a statement.
But Obenshain said recent concerns from the general population about election results made the bill needed.
“We’ve had 12 years of significant segments of our population believing, when their candidate lost, that the election might have been stolen, and we have an election process in place that offers them to little assurance that such fraud couldn’t happen,” Obenshain said.
Democrats, however, said these concerns about voter fraud are unfounded.
“Voter fraud isn’t happening, because no one would risk a felony conviction to give a politician one more vote,” Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City, said.
Skelley said Democrats will likely engage in efforts to educate affected voters.
“Democrats will try to ameliorate this problem before the election, for those voters that don’t know,” Skelley said. “It’s hard to say that this will have a substantive impact on voters.”