A GOP-sponsored bill to tighten voter identification rules cleared the Senate on Friday with help from Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who also supported a Democrat’s amendment to delay the change. But the bill, which originated in the House, now returns to the lower chamber because the Senate amended it. Also Friday, a House committee approved a separate Senate voter ID bill, which now heads to the full House. Both pieces of legislation — House Bill 1337 and Senate Bill 1256 — would remove several forms of identification, including utility bills and paychecks, that the General Assembly added last year to the list of IDs accepted at the polls. SB1256, sponsored by Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), would go further, requiring that voters present photo identification. Bolling, who presides over the Senate and is exploring an independent bid for governor, broke two tie votes related to HB1337, which is sponsored by Dels. Mark L. Cole (R-Spotsylvania) and Rob R. Bell III (R-Albemarle). The lieutenant governor first sided with Democrats to delay implementation until July 2014 and further specify that it not take effect until money is appropriated to educate voters about the change. But he then voted with his party to pass the underlying bill.
Bolling took the same middle-of-the-road stance earlier this month on another voter ID bill, which has since died, voting with Democrats on an amendment to delay implementation but siding with the GOP to pass the bill itself. He said then that he supports stricter voter ID standards but wants to give voters more time to adjust to any changes, particularly given that the rules were altered just last year.
Last year, the General Assembly passed a law to close a loophole that had allowed Virginians to vote without presenting identification. But the law also greatly expanded the list of acceptable IDs to include utility bills, bank statements, government checks, paychecks, concealed weapons permits and student IDs.
Many of those forms of identification would be removed under HB1337, leaving voter registration cards, Social Security cards, driver’s licenses, government-issued IDs and photo workplace IDs as forms accepted at the polls.