The first in a series of measures aimed at tightening Virginia’s election laws began moving toward passage in the House of Delegates today. Del. Mark Cole’s bill, , provides that voters who are unable to present an approved form of identification at the polls would have to vote a provisional ballot – a ballot that would not be counted unless and until the voter’s identity is verified. The measure was approved 4-2 along party lines by a House subcommittee over the opposition of several interest groups that called it an attempt to suppress voter turnout, especially among minority and low-income Virginians.
An identical bill from Cole, R-Spotsylvania County, was passed by the Republican-led House last year but died in a Democrat-controlled Senate committee. It may have a better chance this year in the Senate, which now has an effective Republican majority.
Cole said the bill is an attempt to prevent voter fraud, not to deny anyone’s right to vote. But he acknowledged under questioning that he knows of no cases in which ineligible people impersonating registered voters have been allowed to vote. “In a democracy, the more people who vote, the better,” said Glenn Besa, Virginia director of the Sierra Club, one of the bill’s opponents. “Why try to fix a problem that doesn’t exist?”