Gov. Robert F. McDonnell called Tuesday’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 “a potentially monumental decision” with implications for Virginia, and he called on Congress to come up with a new formula to identify which states should now be covered. The commonwealth is one of nine states — mostly in the South with a history of discriminatory voting practices — subject to a key provision of the federal act. Under that section, states must obtain federal approval before changes are made to their voting laws. The court’s decision means Congress must issue new guidelines to decide which jurisdictions need pre-clearance before changing laws, and it’s unclear how the ruling would affect a Virginia measure requiring voters to present photo IDs to cast ballots. The law, which McDonnell signed in March, is scheduled to take effect for the 2014 elections and was subject to pre-clearance before Tuesday’s decision.
“With Section 4 being struck, we’re in a little bit of limbo until Congress passes a new formula,” McDonnell said on WTOP’s “Ask the Governor” after the decision was announced.
“There’s nothing for us to submit to the Justice Department,” McDonnell said. “If they take six months or a year to come up with a new formula, what’s the law during that time?”
Later in the day, however, McDonnell spokesman Paul Logan clarified the governor’s remarks.
“As we review the Supreme Court’s opinion, it does not appear that the voter identification legislation will be delayed as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling,” Logan said in a statement. “Much depends on whether or not Congress takes action to replace the stricken Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. We will be working with the Attorney General’s Office to determine what, if any, impact the decision will have on the implementation of this legislation in July of 2014.”
McDonnell added that he will continue his efforts to expand voting rights in Virginia, citing his work on restoring felons’ rights as an example. The governor also said during the radio interview that the commonwealth has made “remarkable progress” on being more politically inclusive and is “a modern, cosmopolitan state now.”
In a statement, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) said he would ensure that “Virginia’s voting procedures continue to comply with state and federal anti-discrimination laws.”