In 2013, Republican majorities in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly enacted a “voter ID law” that significantly restricts accepted forms of identification that voters must present before casting a ballot on Election Day. Now, officers at the election booths will require voters to present one of the following forms of photo identification: (1) a valid Virginia driver’s license; (2) a valid United States passport; (3) any photo identification issued by the Commonwealth, one of its political subdivisions, or the United States; (4) a valid student identification card containing a photograph of the voter and issued by any institution of higher education located in the Commonwealth; or (5) a valid employee identification card containing a photograph of the voter and issued by an employer of the voter in the ordinary course of the employer’s business. Any voter that is unable to present an acceptable form of photo identification at the polls will be offered a provisional ballot, but the voter must deliver a copy of a proper form of identification to the electoral board by noon of the third day after the election. Provisional voters may submit copies by fax, e-mail, in-person submission, timely United States Postal Service, or commercial mail delivery.
Opponents of the voter ID law fear the new restrictions will effectively disenfranchise minorities, young people, and people in poverty in Virginia. As many Virginia natives are aware, the victory of the United States’ forty-fourth president, Barack Obama, highlighted a significant shift in Virginia’s political climate. In 2008, Obama became the first Democrat to conquer the state of Virginia in a presidential election since 1964. Obama again carried Virginia when he was re-elected in 2012. His victory was attributable—in part—to substantial increases in voter turnout among African-American, Latino, and young voters. Opponents of the voter ID law contend that the General Assembly enacted the law in order “to stall, if not reverse, the growing success of the Democratic Party in Virginia . . . .”
Filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on June 11, 2015, Lee v. Virginia Board of Elections seeks to address several issues, including Virginia’s recent voter identification law and its alleged impact on voter suppression. The plaintiffs will be challenging the voter ID law under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act as well as the First, Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Twenty-Sixth Amendments.