The State Board of Elections on Wednesday backed a new policy that eliminates for voting purposes any form of photo identification that expired more than 12 months before Election Day. Critics believe the new rule will confuse and make it harder for some Virginians to vote. The board’s 2-1 vote reverses a more lenient policy decision from June that would have accepted at the polls expired but otherwise valid forms of identification permitted under the new voter ID mandate, which took effect July 1. After Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, the sponsor of the new law, expressed concerns, the board reconsidered. It reopened the public comment period for an additional 21 days to explore whether the agency has legal authority to determine what forms of ID are valid. Initially, the board wanted to invalidate expired IDs entirely as an acceptable form of voter identification. But it adopted the alternative policy after reviewing public comments and a legal analysis by Attorney General Mark R. Herring, who concluded that some of the language in the policy could create confusion at the polls and lead to unequal treatment of voters or even prevent voters from casting a ballot.
“I believe (12 months) is the proper grace period for a compromise,” said board Secretary Don Palmer, who drafted the policy proposal. He added that he looked for guidance from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, which allows motorists one year to renew an expired driver’s license.
Palmer said he disagrees with Herring on his view of the constitutionality of the regulation. He added that the policy is “under the umbrella and safety zone” of previous U.S. Supreme Court decisions on voter ID law challenges in other states.