State closes in on even stiffer voter ID law
Posted: February 23, 2013
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — Republican efforts to tighten state voter identification laws even further are prompting discussions at the local level.
Area registrars and political committee members differ over whether such laws are necessary, or are possibly a GOP strategy to suppress Democratic-leaning voters.
Under one of the measures, voters would need to present a valid form of photo ID — such as a driver’s license or U.S. passport — to cast a ballot on Election Day.
Voters who do not have an adequate ID could cast a provisional ballot and then bring the required identification to local election offices by the Friday after Election Day.
Another measure would require the State Board of Elections to provide an ID card to anyone who does not have one.
The bills have passed the General Assembly, but must be signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell, who has expressed reservations about again tightening ID requirements.
Last year, Republican lawmakers enacted legislation that required some form of identification — including bank statements, utility bills and other documents — to vote. Previously, an individual who arrived at the polls without an ID could sign a statement affirming his or her identity.
Joyce Braithwaite, Winchester’s voter registrar, questioned the wisdom of the ID bills.
She does not believe voter fraud is a problem locally, but said requiring a voter ID probably would not solve the problem even if it did exist.
“Anyone can get a photo ID,” she said. “If someone comes in registered as Jane Doe with a Jane Doe ID, I have no idea if that person is Jane Doe.”
In regard to voter fraud, the rest of the country appears to be similar to Winchester. The 2006 U.S. Election Assistance Commission report on voting fraud and voter intimidation found nearly unanimous agreement that they are almost nonexistent.
John Morrison, the vice-chairman of the Winchester Democratic Committee, said the sole goal of the bills is to confuse and intimidate voters who tend to vote Democratic.
“It’s a bunch of ‘stuff,’” he said. “It’s about voter suppression.”
Morrison said he spends considerable time canvassing and registering voters during election seasons and has seen first-hand how the ID laws can complicate the process and dispirit potential voters.
“People don’t want to be embarrassed when they get to the polls,” he said.
But Beau Correll, chairman of the Winchester Republican Committee, thinks the bill would help to prevent fraud.
He mentioned a case of a Pennsylvania woman who allegedly voted twice for President Barack Obama in last year’s election.
“I think [the bill] would go a long way toward stopping any potential fraud,” he said. “My concern is it will gum up voting lines. We need to find some way to expedite the process.”
With McDonnell’s signature, the law would take effect in 2014 — before the midterm elections, but after Virginia’s gubernatorial and state assembly elections Nov. 5.
Four states — Georgia, Indiana, Kansas and Tennessee — have strict photo ID laws similar to the bill awaiting McDonnell’s signature.
Four other states — Mississippi, Texas, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — have approved similar laws that are on hold either because of state-level court interventions or a lack of federal Justice Department approval.
Should McDonnell sign the bill, it would still face a review by the Justice Department because of Virginia’s history of racial discrimination.
A Quinnipiac poll released Thursday found that three-quarters of Virginia voters favor a photo ID law.
The Associated Press contributed some information for this report.
— Contact Conor Gallagher at firstname.lastname@example.org