Special Column: Received your voter card yet?
With absentee voting in full swing, I want to update Virginians with important information on the commonwealth’s new voter identification (ID) requirements and my administration’s efforts to ensure all Virginia voters are ready to vote in this November’s election.
Virginia currently has a law requiring proof of voter ID to be shown at the polls. In May, I signed legislation aimed at increasing the integrity of elections in the Commonwealth. The legislation expands the acceptable forms of ID that voters can provide. At the same time, the new law states that voters arriving without a valid ID are permitted to vote a provisional ballot that will be counted if the voter delivers a copy of an acceptable form of ID to their local election official by noon on the Friday after the election.
When signing the bill, I also issued an Executive Order directing the State Board of Elections to take several steps to ensure the bill was properly implemented and every Virginia voter was well prepared, well before Election Day. These steps included mailing new voter registration cards to all active registered voters in the state.
Voter registration cards are just one of the many different forms of ID that can be used to vote. And we also launched a broad and comprehensive voter education campaign aimed at informing voters of the changes in the law. Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice approved Virginia’s new law, essentially confirming this legislation had no negative impact on Virginia voters.
The vast majority of Virginians will not notice a difference when voting this year. Statistics from previous elections demonstrate that more than 99 percent of Virginia voters bring an acceptable ID to the polls each election. However, realizing the sensitivity of this issue and the sanctity of the voting process, I wanted to ensure that any attempts to enhance the integrity of the voting process posed no burden on Virginia’s voters — especially those who have historically faced barriers to the ballot box.
The Executive Order was my promise to Virginia voters that those previous barriers would not be re-erected. The right to vote is fundamental, and we want every single voter in Virginia to exercise that right freely and securely this November.
Last month, Virginia voters began receiving their voter registration cards, and a wealth of individual election preparedness information including precinct and polling place locations. These cards will continue to arrive in Virginia voters’ mailboxes, with all cards delivered early this month.
Let me take a moment to clear up a few misunderstandings about the new law. First, photo ID is not required to cast a ballot in Virginia. In addition to the voter registration card, other forms of non-photo ID permitted at the polls include a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck that displays the voter’s current name and address, a concealed handgun permit, or a Social Security card.
Permissible photo IDs include a Virginia driver’s license, a student ID card from an institution of higher learning in Virginia, an employee ID card, and others.
Voters can choose one form of ID and only need to bring one to vote on Election Day. You can visit the State Board of Elections’ recently re-launched website at www.sbe.virginia.gov for a comprehensive list of IDs and thorough explanation of the requirements, especially for those voting in Virginia for the first time.
If you have not received your new voter registration card by the time this article has been published, then please contact your local general registrar or the State Board of Elections at 1-800-552-9745. Due to recent redistricting completed decennially, it is important that you check to make sure your voter registration information is current and that you update any outdated information including any needed change of address or name. The deadline to make these changes is October 15, 2012.
Regardless of your preferred candidate or political party, I encourage all eligible Virginians to head to the polls this November to vote and participate in our democratic process. Our democracy depends upon your participation. Please vote this Election Day, and encourage your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers to do the same.
Bob McDonnell is governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.