Virginia lawmakers approve bill to limit acceptable voter ID documents

[JURIST] The Virginia General Assembly [official website] on Tuesday approved legislation limiting the kinds of acceptable documents that voters may use as identification for casting ballots in the Commonwealth. Specifically, Virginia Senate Bill No. 719 and House Bill No. 1337 [texts] remove "several items from the list of acceptable identification documents that a voter must present when voting at the polls on election day." Removed items include a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, or paycheck that shows the name and address of the voter, as well as a voter's social security card. The laws also require that all forms of voter ID contain a photograph of the voter in addition to the voter's name and address. The latter requirement is similar to Senate Bill 1256 [text], which was also passed on Tuesday and "[eliminates] all forms of identification that do not contain a photograph of the voter from the list of forms of identification...a voter must present in order to be allowed to vote." Because the congressional vote was split considerably along party lines, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling (R) [official website] was called to cast the tie-breaking vote, which he did in favor of the new voting regulations. If passed and signed by Governor Bob McDonnell (R) [official website], all new voting measures would take effect in 2014.

Virginia's new laws mark the second time in two years that the Commonwealth has altered voting regulations. In August McDonnell announced [JURIST report] that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] had approved Virginia's voter ID law involving voting procedures, finding that the law did not violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 [text]. Prior to the law, the Commonwealth required identification at the polls, but allowed voters to cast ballots without it if they signed an affidavit swearing their identity. That law eliminated the affidavit option while adding several other acceptable forms of identification, all of which have been removed by Tuesday's new legislation. There are now more than 30 US States [NCSL backgrounder] that require voters to present some form of ID at the polls, including 17 states that have passed laws requiring photo ID. The issue remains legally controversial, most notably in South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota [JURIST reports].

 

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