The Washington Post reports that a new law which took hold in Virginia last winter is requiring voters to produce some form of valid photographic identification at their polling stations before they are allowed to cast a ballot in November’s mid-term elections.
According to a statement by the Virginia State Board of Elections on Thursday, this may remove the democratic voice of around 200,000 voters.
Voters without such identification will be able to fill out provisional ballots on November 4, but under the circumstance of close contests, these ballots may not be so easily counted.
This is but one of a tide of state “voter ID” laws executed recently which have aroused cynicism from groups arguing that these laws unreasonably target low-income voters and immigrants who are unlikely to hold a driver’s license or other form of photo ID. 33 other states have passed similar laws, but Virginia is among the most strict in its rulings.
Although the federal Help America Vote Act requires all states to obtain some form of identification from first-time voters who have registered by mail, eighteen states as well as the District end there. Many states enforce differing restrictions when it comes to identification, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.
Virginia requires voters to produce a state issued photo ID, a U.S. passport, an ID issued by the federal government, a student photo ID from a Virginian school, or a photo employee ID. Although driver’s licenses are the norm, data from the state board shows that nearly 460,000 voters in Virginia lack that form of identification.
Voters can show up at the polls without an ID and cast a provisional ballot, but in order for that vote to count, they either must give their local registrar a valid form of ID, or apply on the spot for one, by noon on the Friday after the election.
“It’s definitely an issue,” said Shaun Daniels, the campaign manager for John W. Foust (D), who is running in Northern Virginia’s hotly contested 10th Congressional District race. “You can tell the motivations by who is working to solve this and trying to educate people and who is not.”
In areas such as this where the elections will assuredly be close, the concern for the potential of confusion by the lack of a proper ID is huge among Democrats who are more likely to attract voters affected by the new law.
Republicans on the other hand…not so much. But when have they ever cared for immigrants or lower class citizens?
Barbara J. Comstock (R), who is running against Foust, declined to comment on the state law. A list generated by the Department of Motor Vehicles shows that a little over 26,000 registered voters in 7 counties lack licenses or state IDs in that area.
This does not automatically exclude all of those voters however. Some of these may have valid photo IDs through their school or work. Home-bound people are also not required to have a photo ID so long as they vote through an absentee ballot.
This affects a wide range people, not only lower-income citizens and immigrants. Officials say that depending on where voters live, they could easily go without a driver’s license.
According to Linda Lindberg, the general registrar in Arlington which is home to many young professionals who don’t drive, a significant portion of the local 4,00o people listed by the DMV are in their 20s and 30s.
“We don’t know whether they have other forms of ID or not,” she said, commenting also on the fact that seniors in the county are also likely to be affected by the new law.
Her office is currently trying to spread the word through “road shows,” where camera toting employees offer to produce photo IDs on the spot. Election officials are also mailing fliers about the law to voters.