The ACLU of Virginia and more than a dozen other groups concerned about voting rights today sent a letter to Governor Bob McDonnell urging him to veto legislation that imposes stricter identification requirements at the polls, which the groups expect will limit eligible voters’ access on Election Day. “We all agree that the integrity of our electoral process is paramount,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga. “And part of maintaining the integrity of the process is ensuring that no eligible voter is denied the right to vote.” “Last year, Virginia changed its voter ID laws and spent $2 million in taxpayer dollars to issue new voter registration cards and launch a voter education campaign,” added Gastañaga. “Now, following an election with long lines but no instances of fraud, we are looking at legislation that imposes even stricter ID requirements that are unnecessary and will be burdensome, particularly for voters who are elderly, racial and ethnic minorities, students, persons with disabilities, and low-income.”
In their letter to the Governor, the advocacy groups urge him to veto HB 1337, which eliminates paychecks, government checks, bank statements, utility bills and social security cards as acceptable IDs for voting, and SB 1256, which mandates that voters show an approved photo ID to vote and requires the State Board of Elections to promulgate rules and regulations requiring local registrars to issue free photo IDs to voters who request them.
SB 1256 includes the provision that local registrars issue free photo IDs in an effort to circumvent the notion that requiring photo ID is tantamount to a poll tax, which is prohibited. Yet, as the organizations argue, it is difficult to understand how such IDs will in fact be free since the process for acquiring the necessary identity documents to obtain a photo ID from the local registrar could be expensive and/or require multiple visits to a local government office.
“Not only is a photo ID requirement unnecessary and onerous for hundreds of thousands of voters, it is also a costly proposal for taxpayers,” said Gastañaga. “The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis estimates that SB 1256 will cost taxpayers between $7.3 million and $21.8 million. Meanwhile, the General Assembly has appropriated just $166,250 for photo equipment. Where will Virginia find the remaining millions of dollars needed to fund this unnecessary law?”