McDonnell signs voter ID bill into law
It is the last of a string of controversial measures in the explosive 2012 Virginia General Assembly and today Governor Bob McDonnell is ready to put it behind him. The Governor signed into law a measure that will tighten the requirements to prove your identification when you cast a ballot in an election in Virginia.
Currently in Virginia, if you are registered but show up the polls without any ID, you are able to cast your ballot, but sign a sworn statement that you are who you say you are. The vote counts, but you could be charged with fraud after the fact if you vote under someone else’s name.
Republicans have long criticized the practice as being an easy opportunity for voter fraud. This new measure would still allow you to cast a ballot without an ID, but that ballot would only be provisional and would not count until you can produce one of the acceptable forms of ID.
Democrats angrily fought the measure and claimed that it was a GOP effort to suppress voters. In particular, voters who tend to vote for democrats, including minorities, the elderly and the poor.
The Virginia proposal was one of many passed in state legislatures around the country, but the Commonwealth’s bill did not go as far as some which forced voters to produce a photo ID at the polls. In fact, while the Virginia bill tightened the requirements at the polls, it actually expanded what you could show to prove your identity. Currently a Virginia Voter ID card, a driver’s licence, Social Security card, government-issued ID or a photo ID from your place of employment are all accepted. The new law would also allow utility bills, paychecks, bank statements, government checks or a current Virginia college ID.
In an effort to make sure everyone who wants to vote can, McDonnell is issuing an Executive Order requiring the Board of Elections to send new voter ID cards to every single registered voter in Virginia. This provision is addition to the current bill, which will now become law.
The liberal group “ProgressVA” was not impressed with McDonnell’s efforts to soften the impact of the new restrictions. They called the move a waste of taxpayer funds.
“This legislation and the accompanying executive order are an expensive fix to a nonexistent problem,” said Anna Scholl ProgressVA’s Executive Director “We’ve never solved anything in this country with less democracy and we shouldn’t start now.”
The full statement from the Governor’s office and ProgressVA’s response can be found after the jump:
Governor McDonnell Signs SB 1 and HB 9 and Issues Executive Order
Governor Directs State Board of Elections to Send Every Virginia Voter a Free Voter Card Between Now and Election Day
Ensures All Virginia Voters Will Have ID to Vote in November
Governor: “We will be sending every voter in Virginia a free voter card between now and Election Day to ensure they have at least one form of ID to bring with them to the polls. On Election Day this year, every Virginia voter will have at least one valid ID.”
Governor’s Executive Order is Available Here
RICHMOND – Governor Bob McDonnell signed today legislation that the General Assembly sent him that will expand the forms of acceptable identification for voting, and change the procedure when someone votes without presenting identification, requiring them to vote provisionally and later present an approved ID to their local registrar through email, fax, mail, or hand delivery. Governor McDonnell also issued an executive order today directing the State Board of Elections to take a number of steps to implement this legislation. Among other things, the executive order directs the State Board of Elections to send every Virginia voter a voter card, a valid form of ID under state law, before Election Day, so that every registered Virginia voter has a valid ID to present at the polls.
Virginia’s Voter ID law has been in place since 2000. This legislation only deals with individuals who do not bring an approved form of ID with them to the polls when voting.
“Open and secure elections are the cornerstone of a free democracy and are essential for citizens to have faith in their government,” McDonnell said. “Every qualified citizen has the right to cast one vote. Not two votes; not zero votes. It is our duty as a democracy to ensure that is always the case. For a dozen years, Virginia has already required voters to bring identification to the polls. This legislation does two things. It increases the forms of identification that can be used for purpose of voting, while helping to further prevent voter fraud and ensuring Virginians that they can have faith that votes have not been fraudulently cast.”
The executive order issued by the governor directs the State Board of Elections to take a number of steps regarding implementation of this legislation. First, the State Board of Elections will issue voter cards to every Virginia voter between now and Election Day. Second, the State Board of Elections will coordinate a public education campaign to help raise awareness about the need to bring an approved ID to the polling place on Election Day, and the process for obtaining a free voter card if someone does not have a form of ID. Third, the State Board of Elections will make clear that localities may contact voters who vote provisionally without an ID about the need to provide ID prior to noon on Friday after the election. Lastly, the State Board of Elections will collect data regarding provisional ballots cast and the number of voters who vote without an ID.
“The additional steps my administration will take to implement this legislation will ensure that no voter is overly burdened by the provisions included in this legislation,” Governor McDonnell continued. “Some have argued that there are voters who do not have any form of ID to bring to the polls. For that reason, we will be sending every voter in Virginia a free voter card between now and Election Day to ensure they have at least one form of ID to bring with them to the polls. On Election Day this year, every Virginia voter will have at least one valid ID.”
On April 9, 2012, the governor submitted a number of proposed amendments to the General Assembly to improve the legislation, and most were approved. One set of amendments would have created a system for simple signature comparison that would have allowed someone’s vote to be cast without any follow up action required on the part of the voter; however, the General Assembly regrettably did not accept this set of amendments.
“While I think the legislation would have been improved with the signature comparison provision that would have virtually eliminated the need for nearly anyone to have to return with an ID later in the week, the legislation returned to me, coupled with the above additional steps to be implemented by executive order, is an important step in securing our elections and preventing any possible fraud,” Governor McDonnell remarked. “I was pleased that the General Assembly approved my remaining amendments, particularly my proposal to extend the time a voter has to transmit or present their ID after Election Day until Friday at noon after the election.”
Virginia first implemented a voter identification requirement in 2000. Virginia has never required, nor does this legislation require, photo identification to vote.
Under this legislation and existing law, the following are acceptable forms of ID for voting:
- Virginia voter registration card
- Social Security card
- Valid Virginia driver’s license
- Any other identification card issued by an agency of the Commonwealth, one of its political subdivisions, or the United States
- Any valid student identification card issued by a Virginia institution of higher education
- A valid identification card issued by an employer containing a photograph of the voter
- A copy of a current utility bill
- A copy of a bank statement
- A government check
- A paycheck that shows the name and address of the voter.
Virginia’s current voter ID law commands broad compliance. While comprehensive statewide statistics are not available, a survey of localities from the last presidential and gubernatorial elections in 2008 and 2009 indicate a compliance rate of well over 99%. Only a handful of voters per precinct, on average, do not bring an approved ID document. The intensive voter education initiatives contained in this Executive Order will increase compliance and continue Virginia’s tradition of honest elections. The Governor strongly encourages all voters to register and vote in the important elections this year.
ProgressVA Statement on Bob McDonnell’s Refusal to Veto Voter Suppression Legislation
Legislation will increase obstacles to voting for thousands of Virginians while executive order could cost taxpayers millions
Governor Bob McDonnell demonstrated yet again today that his allegiances lie with his extreme right-wing allies, not Virginia families. McDonnell refused to veto voter suppression legislation that will make it harder for thousands of Virginians to cast a ballot. ProgressVA Executive Director Anna Scholl released the following statement.
“We’re disappointed in Governor McDonnell’s refusal to heed the calls of thousands of Virginians and veto this unnecessary and expensive voter suppression legislation. Unfortunately, Virginians’ constitutional rights have been caught between Bob McDonnell’s allegiance to his right-wing allies and his Vice Presidential aspirations. This legislation and the accompanying executive order are an expensive fix to a nonexistent problem. We’ve never solved anything in this country with less democracy and we shouldn’t start now.”
Over fifteen hundred ProgressVA members contacted their representatives and Governor McDonnell urging opposition to this legislation. Additionally, a coalition of organizations including Virginia New Majority, Virginia Organizing, the Virginia Interfaith Center, and Alliance for Progressive Values delivered 6740 petition signatures to Governor McDonnell calling for his veto.
According to The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, the cost to the Commonwealth of new staff training and administration and instituting a voter education campaign around new voting requirements could cost taxpayers millions.