Many voters who showed up to the polls last November did not think to bring along a photo ID, nor did they need to. That could change with West Virginia’s upcoming legislative session, during which voter ID laws are expected to be discussed. According to a recent report by the Associated Press, a GOP proposal would mandate voters present photo ID at polls and help those who don’t have such identification to obtain one.
Renny Smith, public relations chair for the League of Women Voters of Jefferson County, said she worries voter ID laws will discourage people from visiting the polls. “We have anecdotal evidence that people in West Virginia believe they have to bring ID to the polls every time they vote,” Smith said. “This is not correct, but it does present a barrier to voting.”
Smith, who was in her 20s when the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, said voter ID laws remind her of a time before polls were open to all U.S. citizens. “All of the amendments afterward have been to try to make the polls more and more open to people who are not necessarily the majority,” Smith said. The LWV does not support voter ID laws statewide or nationally, according to Smith.
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant has long been opposed to voter ID laws and said in a telephone interview Tuesday that West Virginia already has policies in place that aid in voter verification. “When you go to the polls you have to identify yourself, give your address and verify through your signature,” Tennant said.