Divided Virginia Senate Passes Voter ID Bill
Monday, February 27, 2012
The Washington Times
RICHMOND - The Virginia Senate on Monday signed off on legislation that would require voters who can't produce identification at the polls or are not recognized by an election officer to cast their ballot provisionally.
Proponents argue the hot-button measure is intended to prevent voter fraud while opponents say it is unnecessary and will suppress voting.
The Senate deadlocked 20-20 on the bill, with Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling providing the tie-breaking vote.
Right now, voters can simply sign a sworn affidavit saying they are who they say they are if they don't bring identification to the polls.
Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, Harrisonburg Republican, said the the bill is "intended to discourage one thing and one thing only: voter fraud."
The amended version approved Monday expands forms of identification voters could use to include student identification cards, or copies of utility bills or bank statements.
Registrars or local electoral boards would not have to follow up beyond matching identification documents submitted by the voter to determine whether the ballot would count.
The issue has been a particularly sensitive across the country and in Virginia, one of a handful of states that must pre-clear its redistricting plans with the Justice Department because of the commonwealth's history of discrimination at the polls.
"I'm old enough to remember Virginia's inglorious voting history," said Sen. Yvonne B. Miller, Virginia Beach Democrat. "This is called chilling the vote. There are reasons that people give that may make it for some Virginians. It does not make it with me."
"Although I won't change any person's mind, I will say to you that this is another day of shame for Virginia," she added.
Opponents argue that without widespread reports of voter fraud in the state, the bill is unnecessary at best and intentionally punitive at worst. But proponents say that claims about the bill's true intentions and effects are grossly exaggerated.
Sen. Stephen H. Martin, Chesterfield Republican, the sponsor of the original Senate version of the bill, said that if arguments put forth by Democrats such as the bill would require people to come back to the polling place a second time or prevent elderly people without birth certificates from voting were true, it wouldn't have been introduced.
"Don't fall for the rhetoric," he said prior to the vote.
Mr. Bolling also broke a 20-20 tie to pass a bill that would exclude the public or members of the press from watching provisional ballot counting.
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