News Column

VA Reports No Problems with Voter ID Law at Polls

Nov. 7, 2012

Clay Barbour


Despite long lines and short tempers at several polling locations Tuesday, the state's first go-around with its new voter identification law ended with few problems reported, officials said.

The General Assembly this year passed a law that required residents to bring one of nine accepted forms of identification to the polls, a list that ranged from Social Security cards and driver's licenses to paychecks and utility bills.

The fear for opponents of the law was that requiring identification would suppress voter turnout and disenfranchise some voters, many of them Democrats.

But on Tuesday, poll workers across the region said most voters seemed familiar with the requirements and few were turned away for not having proper identification. The bigger problem seemed to be some longer-than-normal wait times as poll workers verified IDs.

There are 4.7 million registered voters in Virginia, with nearly 700,000 in Hampton Roads. Poll workers were required to check names, addresses and other details before voters were handed their ballots.

The State Board of Elections spent almost $2 million in state and federal money to mail voter ID cards to registered voters and to pay for a massive effort to educate the public on changes to the law.

The Republican and Democratic parties also have taken part in the process, making voter education a component of campaign efforts.

But still, problems occur in every election. Rachel Champagne was shocked when she was called out of the voting line in Virginia Beach and told that records showed she had already cast an absentee ballot.

Champagne, a 27-year-old administrative assistant for a mortgage sub-servicing company, said she had not voted absentee. An election official told her that her name may have been marked in the system as an absentee voter by mistake, or it could have been the result of voter fraud, she said. Champagne said she suspects a system error is most likely to blame.

The precinct worker told Champagne she would have to fill out a provisional ballot, which she did. The ballot told her she could go to a municipal building today to see whether her provisional ballot is accepted.

Pilot writers Dave Forster and Cindy Clayton contributed to this report.

Source: (C) 2012 The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star, Norfolk, VA

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