The politically charged voter identification bill passed by the state Senate this week was amended on the floor at the request of Sen. Steve Newman to make it easier for students at private colleges to vote. Newman, R-Lynchburg, asked for the list of approved voter identification to be expanded to include any valid student ID issued by a four-year college, public or private, in Virginia. Current state law only allows election officials to accept public university IDs, because state institutions issue them. Private university IDs did not make the grade. Under SB1, voters who do not present valid ID at the polls will be required to cast a provisional ballot and submit proper identification later to ensure their vote is counted. This has ignited a contentious debate in Richmond, with Democrats arguing it will suppress the vote of minorities, the elderly and poor.
Republicans say the measure is necessary to combat voter fraud. The bill deadlocked the Senate along party lines, and required Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling’s tie-breaking vote to pass. Valid forms of voter ID currently include a Virginia driver’s license, voter registration card, social security card, government-issued ID or employee ID with photo. SB1 would expand that to certain documents, like utility bills and paychecks that contain the voter’s name and address.
Newman’s amendment — adding private college IDs to the list — would help students at Liberty University and other Lynchburg colleges avoid the hassle of the provisional ballot system. “This simply puts private four-year colleges on the same bar with a utility bill,” Newman said, adding if phone bills and state university IDs were going to be accepted, private school IDs should be as well.