Virginia Democrats vote to remove photo ID requirement for voting
RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — Both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly have now passed a bill that would remove Virginia's requirement to show a photo ID in order to vote.
On Monday, the Senate voted 21-19 to approve House Bill 19.
The bill previously passed the House of Delegates on a 57-43 vote on Feb. 11, the last day it could get out of its originating chamber.
Now, it's officially been approved by both sides of the statehouse, so it next heads to Governor Ralph Northam for a signature to become law. Gov. Northam has already expressed support for signing the bill into law
Under the proposed change, Virginia voting requirements would revert to a similar standard as in the years before the photo ID law was signed by former Governor Bob McDonnell.
Voters would be able to show voter registration documents, bank statements, paychecks or any government document that shows the name and address of the voter.
Voters who do not show valid identification when signing in to vote would be required to sign a sworn affidavit stating that they they are who they claim to be. The signed statement subjects the person to Class 5 felony penalties if the statement is false.
A voter who doesn't show photo ID or sign the statement can be given a provisional ballot.
Virginians currently must present a photo ID, such as a driver’s license or a U.S. passport, to vote in person. According to a 2012 study by Project Vote, an organization that works to ensure all Americans can vote, approximately 7% of the U.S. population lacks photo ID. This is especially true of lower-income individuals, those under the age of 20 and ethnic minorities.
Voters can provide their social security number and other information to get a free Virginia Voter Photo Identification Card, but some legislators said that service is unknown to many.
“Before the photo ID requirement, voters had to sign the affidavit to say they are who they say they are, and I think that was enough,” said House Majority Leader Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria. “I feel the photo ID was a way to suppress the vote because not everyone has one.”
Former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell signed SB 1256 into law mandating voters have a form of ID with a photograph. Virginia is one of the 18 states with such voting requirements, according to the National Conference of Legislature.
In 2016, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ID requirement after attorneys for the state Democratic Party challenged the law, arguing it had a disproportionate impact on low income and minority voters.
“People are fed up with our overly restrictive and racist voting policies, and the legislature is finally getting rid of some of the biggest roadblocks to progressive reform,” said Glass. “This has been a long time coming.”
Republicans quickly fired back against Democrats’ passage of the bill from the House, with House Republicans issuing the following statement:
The House of Delegates voted to gut Virginia’s popular voter ID law today, removing the requirement that voters present a valid photo ID in order to cast their ballot at the polls. This bill allows someone with no photo ID to vote with just a signature affirming that they are who they claim to be.
The bill does nothing to prevent fraud, but instead gives someone who casts a fraudulent ballot priority over the actual voter: a ballot from someone signing an affirmation is counted as a regular ballot. If the actual voter shows up with a photo ID later under the same name, they will then be directed to cast a provisional ballot and forced to defend their identity after Election Day.
“This bill does not outline a clear mechanism to ensure one person, one ballot,” said Del. Chris Head (R-Botetourt). “Imagine someone shows up at your voting precinct and signs the affidavit claiming to be you. What happens when you legitimately show up later that day with your photo ID? Under this bill the fraudulent vote would be counted.”
“This bill subjects our elections to the same threat of fraud as drivers licenses in Virginia prior to 9/11,” said Del. Mark Cole (R-Spotsylvania). “That affidavit-based system was changed because of how easy it was to falsify records.”
The Capital News Service contributed to this article.
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