Voter identification laws are a hot issue in Virginia and across the country. Republicans say such laws combat voter fraud, which they insist is widespread. Democrats say the laws discourage voting by minority and elderly citizens who may be less likely to have a photo ID. The debate has played out in Virginia, where Republicans control the General Assembly and a Democrat is governor, with few signs of a compromise. In 2013, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1256, which required Virginia voters to present a driver’s license, passport or other photo ID in order to cast a ballot. The bill — which was signed into law by then-Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican — also provided free photo IDs to citizens who needed one.
Democrats challenged the law, but in December, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld it. “Not only does the substance of SB 1256 not impose an undue burden on minority voting, there was no evidence to suggest racially discriminatory intent in the law’s enactment,” the Richmond-based appellate court ruled.
However, the ruling was hardly the last word on the subject.