News Column

Va. Governor Signs Voter ID Bill into Law

March 26, 2013

Julian Walker

Virginia is on its way to becoming a photo identification voting state.

Gov. Bob McDonnell moved the Old Dominion in that direction this week by signing into law legislation requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls beginning next July.

His action marks the second substantive change to state voter identification in as many years -- the General Assembly last year prevented voters without ID from casting a regular ballot as they'd been able to before.

The governor signed scores of other bills Monday, his deadline to act on many bills the legislature approved this winter, and amended others dealing with abortion, texting while driving, the broad transportation funding package, and the state budget, among others.

As he did in 2012, McDonnell has again issued an executive order to aid implementation of the new voter law.

He has directed state election officials to educate the public on this latest policy change and instructed them to provide local registrars the equipment needed to produce photo registration cards.

Last year, Virginia spent nearly $2 million on voter outreach and the reissuance of registration cards to millions of voters after the law change tailored which forms of ID are acceptable.

In his more recent executive order, McDonnell said updates to state voting law are intended to make "our electoral system less subject to fraud" and he highlighted SB 1256 as a way to "further address any vulnerabilities in our system."

At the same time, he added, Virginia "must maintain the provisional ballot safeguard for individuals who fail to present proper documentation at the polling place" so they have a chance for their vote to count.

The photo ID bill McDonnell signed was sponsored by Sen. Mark Obenshain, a Harrisonburg Republican running for attorney general this year, who said measures like his are "reasonable steps to provide the assurance that our elections are indeed free and fair."

Anna Scholl of the left-leaning group ProgressVA had a different reaction.

"It is simply outrageous that conservative politicians are throwing up new barriers to the ballot box when the Commonwealth already has voter ID law that was passed just last year and with a $2 million price tag," she said. "Our elections should be free, fair, and accessible. SB1256 makes it harder for many Virginians to vote by requiring a specific form of ID which many eligible voters don't possess. "

Clauses in Obenshain's bill delay its effective date until July 1, 2014 and require that state funds are budgeted to put the policy into place.

A Quinnipiac University poll released last month found 75 percent support for a photo ID policy in Virginia, compared to 23 percent against it.

Several other states have approved photo ID laws in recent years, sparking lawsuits by interest groups and the federal government alleging the policies are discriminatory against certain voters.

Source: (c) 2013 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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