Controversy over proposed voter ID bill

Published: Feb. 18, 2013 at 11:28 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 1, 2013 at 12:06 AM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Under debate right now is the issue of what type of identification you need in order to vote in Virginia. Right now, all you have to present is something that identifies you, like a bank statement, or even a utility bill. Some feel you should show more, an actual photo ID when you head to the polls.

There's less than a week left in the Virginia General Assembly and the push behind Senate Bill 1256 is creating a lot of controversy.

"Virginia has an ugly history of making it harder for some communities to vote," said Sen. Mamie Locke.

If you ask the Virginia House Democratic Caucus, the long lines we saw last Election Day provided fuel for republicans to try to change who can vote.

"This is going to have a very extremely negative impact on senior citizens," Locke said.

The bill aims to eliminate current acceptable identification like government checks or voter registration cards.

"Just six months ago we spent 2 million dollars to educate voters about changes to the voting laws. Now we want to change the laws again and for what?" Locke questioned.

House democrats Monday called it voter suppression by republicans.

"They think, 'hey I don't have to change my politics. I just have to keep you from the polls. I've got to keep those that disagree with me from the polls'," said Del. Charniele Herring.

Senator John Watkins disagrees.

"You have to have an ID card to buy alcohol. You have to have an ID card to get an airplane. You have to have an ID card to drive a car," Sen. Watkins said.

Proponents say verifying voters with photo ID would prevent fraud.

"I just think it validates who the people are," Watkins said indicating his plans to support the bill.

But some lawmakers question the intentions.

"Let's be clear. Since 2008, upwards of 8 million people have voted. Not one individual has ever been prosecuted or even a suggestion that person went to the polls and tried to represent himself as someone he wasn't," added Del. Joe Morrissey.

The Commonwealth Institute says as many as 800,000 Virginians don't have adequate photo identification and says the photo ID bill could cost Virginia up to 22 million dollars. But those in favor of the change say it's needed.

Under the plan, the state would provide free photo ID cards for those who may not have one. Opponents say lost wages and time to apply for the ID would end up costing people in the long run.

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