State election officials will spend nearly $2 million to prepare citizens for compliance with a new voter identification law intended to tamp down on election fraud in Virginia, where its prevalence is questionable. Much of that money – $1.36 million – is the cost of printing and mailing voter registration cards to millions of registered Virginia voters, as Gov. Bob McDonnell ordered when he signed the law last May. Another $550,000 is for a voter education contract awarded to a vendor selected from five bidders. A mix of state and federal funds are paying for the outreach. That’s a significant outlay for the State Board of Elections, which in 2008 relied on the state Department of General Services for public relations services under a $50,000 annual contract.
This year’s undertaking is massive by comparison, due to a fundamental shift in voting law, a change cleared by the U.S. Justice Department in August, and McDonnell’s mandate to inform the electorate. To do that, election officials are reaching out to interest groups throughout Virginia’s 134 localities as part of an “Are You Election Ready?” campaign.
Republican legislators this year amended Virginia’s voter ID law by requiring voters to produce an acceptable form of identification to vote on a standard ballot at the polls. On the expanded list: driver’s license, government-issued IDs such as voter or Social Security cards, valid college or employer cards, a bank statement, government check or utility bill showing the voter’s name and address. Those lacking ID on Election Day will get a provisional ballot, a vote counted only if the voter presents proof of identity to officials by noon on the third day after the election. Before, voters without proper ID could still vote normally by signing a statement affirming their identities.