Voter identification restrictions edged one step closer to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s desk Friday as the Senate approved a measure that would shorten the list of voter IDs acceptable on the polls that went into effect last year. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling broke a tie for Republicans in the evenly divided chamber on a House of Delegates measure that would take utility bills, bank statements, government issued checks or paychecks, student IDs and concealed carry permits off the list of identification voters can use to prove who they are. Like he did on the Senate version of the bill, Bolling also broke a tie in favor of Democrats on an amendment that would push back the effective date of the measure to July 1, 2014, and make enactment dependent on funding in next year’s budget plan for a voter education campaign. Because the measure was amended it must go back to the House for its approval before heading to the governor.
The House Appropriations Committee passed a Senate bill Friday that would require photo ID only at the polls. The measure sponsored by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, would require local voter registrars to supply free photo IDs to any one who asks.
The equipment needed by the registrars is expected to cost $166,000. The committee did not put a price tag on a voter education campaign, but last year’s efforts by the State Board of Elections cost roughly $1 million.
Sens. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, and Henry Marsh, D-Richmond, – two of the chambers five black lawmakers – took to the floor of the Senate calling the measures voter suppression efforts that hearkened back to segregation era when blacks were effectively disenfranchised in Virginia.
“Here we are again claiming non-existent voter fraud as a means of placing obstacles in the way of many Virginia voters,” Locke said. “The ability to go the polls and cast a ballot without jumping through unnecessary hoops is one of those fundamental rights… The struggle continues.”