Legislative efforts to prevent in-person voter fraud generated discussion Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee. House Bill 2781, sponsored by Del. Saira Blair, R-Berkeley, would require voters to present government-issued photo identification at a polling place to verify their identity before casting their ballot. The bill would additionally eliminate the Automatic Voter Registration initiative found on a driver’s license application. If passed, West Virginia would be the eighth state to pass photo ID laws. Exemptions to the bill include nursing home residents and those who have religious objections to being photographed. Student IDs were also removed as legitimate forms of government photo IDs.
Eli Baumwell, policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union for West Virginia, said the proposed legislation posed a number of problems for underprivileged residents, specifically minorities and low-income families.
“When these laws are put in place, a lot of people are held back by a lack of information,” Baumwell said. “Even if a state does offer a free ID at the DMV, if they aren’t informing people who may not be eligible for a driver’s license, those individuals may never think to go to the DMV. They may not be able to afford cab fare or get a ride to the to get the alternative identification, so if they don’t know there are options, they won’t attempt to get an ID.”