ACLU of Virginia slams Virginia State Board of Elections

constitutionThe ACLU of Virginia denounces today’s decision by the Virginia State Board of Elections (SBE) to backtrack and pass a regulation banning voters from using expired Virginia driver’s licenses & U.S. passports for voting.

“Whether you agree with the new voter ID law or not, expiration of otherwise valid documents issued by the state or federal government does not affect their usefulness in determining someone’s identity,” said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia. “The the new regulation adopted today sets an arbitrary “past due” date that allows these photo IDs to be used if they are within 12 months of their expiration date,” she continued. “If the purpose of the voter ID law is to permit election officers to determine the identity of a voter, there is no rationale that can be used to say why the expired document is just as useful for this purpose on day 366 as it would be on day 365,” continued Gastañaga.

This decision changes a policy put in place just two months ago that said expired photo IDs are valid for purposes of voting. Today’s action is the latest blow to voting rights in the implementation of the photo ID law that became effective on July 1, 2014.

Hope Amezquita, Staff Attorney & Legislative Counsel, spoke at the meeting and asked the SBE to protect the fundamental, constitutional right to vote and to allow qualified, registered voters to use expired photo IDs. Amezquita emphasized if the law’s purpose is to prevent so-called in-person voter fraud, the only relevant item on the ID is the photo, and not the expiration date.“Voters shouldn’t be stripped of their fundamental right to vote just because they no longer drive or travel internationally,” says Amezquita. “To make matters worse, this decision to ban the use of expired Virginia driver’s licenses and U.S. Passports is also illogical and confusing. Many of the approved photo IDs do not have or display expiration dates, yet the SBE still decided to place this unnecessary requirement on Virginia driver’s licenses and U.S. Passports. The photo ID requirements are not uniform or fair.”

Only two months ago the SBE voted to allow otherwise acceptable, but expired photo IDs to be used for voting purposes. The SBE flipped its position after the patron of the legislation imposing the new ID requirement came forth protesting the regulation.

By backtracking from its decision two months ago, the SBE is leaving many Virginians, including the elderly and those with disabilities that prevent them from driving themselves to General Registrar’s office to get a free voter photo ID, without acceptable IDs to use on Election Day. Worse still, the SBE has not required general registrars to do mobile outreach to these voters.

Amezquita also provided public comment criticizing the minimal efforts of the Commonwealth to launch a comprehensive public education campaign and to expend the necessary resources to implement the photo ID law.

“Despite lacking any evidence of in-person voter fraud, in 2013 the legislature decided to add this new barrier to the polls his solution in search of a problem is nothing more than a modern-day poll tax that will only serve to harm the most vulnerable Virginians, and the delayed implementation and lack of funding for voter education only compounds the problems presented by this unnecessary legislation,” concluded Gastañaga.

Today also marks the 49th anniversary of the passage of the voting rights act. It is extremely disappointing that the SBE chose to erode the progress intended by this historic, ground breaking law.

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