Voting rights groups are worried that Virginia’s new voter ID law, which will require people to show a photo ID to vote, will disenfranchise some in next month’s midterm elections. “There are so many cases where voters who have every right to vote potentially can be turned away,” said Anne Sterling, president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. She said rural, poor and elderly voters could face a harder burden. It’s an issue in states across the U.S., with the Supreme Court last weekend allowing Texas to use its strict voter ID law, over the vehement objection of three justices. The Texas law, unlike Virginia’s, doesn’t allow college student IDs as a form of identification. Defenders of Virginia’s law say it provides ample opportunities for people who don’t have photo IDs to get them in time to vote. And opponents such as the League of Women Voters are working to help people obtain IDs ahead of the election.
Just how many voters lack an acceptable ID is difficult to say. The State Board of Elections last month said that just under 200,000 active voters in the state lack a Department of Motor Vehicles-issued photo ID, the most common form of ID that voters are expected to use at the ballot box. But the elections board stressed that there are several other types of IDs that voters can use, such as U.S. passports.
Stephen J. Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, said the law will have a disproportionate impact on lower-income and African-American voters. The law “is likely to mean tens of thousands of people are no longer going to possess the documentation to be able to vote.”