America has had a few episodes of voter registration fraud – people being paid to fake signatures to satisfy voting requirements. Election mischief, like the annual robocalls that remind people to vote on the wrong Tuesday, is much more commonplace. Voting officials also regularly find signs that election machines have been tampered with. In Virginia, as the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported recently, there’s an ongoing state police investigation into fraud by individual voters, most of them felons who hadn’t had their rights restored but tried to vote anyway. None of these problems would be addressed by the voter ID legislation passed by the General Assembly earlier this year. Last week, the legislature rejected amendments to ease restrictions that, in the governor’s words, seem specifically designed to disenfranchise certain voters.
As written, the bill would allow a voter without an ID to cast a provisional ballot but require him or her to return with ID for the vote to count. Gov. Bob McDonnell’s amendment would’ve allowed registrars to compare a voter’s signature with one on file. That amendment seems humane and reasonable. For someone without a car, or who has difficulty getting around, two trips to the voting precinct is unnecessarily onerous, especially when technology allows a far easier solution.
Some delegates and senators, however, seem convinced that they are standing in defense of democracy. In its survey, the Times-Dispatch found no cases where a voter lied about who he or she was – the kind of fraud the General Assembly’s bill would prevent. Study after study has failed to turn up evidence of such problems. Nevertheless, similar voter ID requirements have been on the rise across the nation, especially in states where Republicans are newly resurgent.