Advocacy groups urge McDonnell to veto voter ID bills
The ACLU of Virginia and more than a dozen other groups concerned about voting rights today sent a letter to Governor Bob McDonnell urging him to veto legislation that imposes stricter identification requirements at the polls, which the groups expect will limit eligible voters’ access on Election Day.
“We all agree that the integrity of our electoral process is paramount,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga. “And part of maintaining the integrity of the process is ensuring that no eligible voter is denied the right to vote.”
“Last year, Virginia changed its voter ID laws and spent $2 million in taxpayer dollars to issue new voter registration cards and launch a voter education campaign,” added Gastañaga. “Now, following an election with long lines but no instances of fraud, we are looking at legislation that imposes even stricter ID requirements that are unnecessary and will be burdensome, particularly for voters who are elderly, racial and ethnic minorities, students, persons with disabilities, and low-income.”
In their letter to the Governor, the advocacy groups urge him to veto HB 1337, which eliminates paychecks, government checks, bank statements, utility bills and social security cards as acceptable IDs for voting, and SB 1256, which mandates that voters show an approved photo ID to vote and requires the State Board of Elections to promulgate rules and regulations requiring local registrars to issue free photo IDs to voters who request them.
SB 1256 includes the provision that local registrars issue free photo IDs in an effort to circumvent the notion that requiring photo ID is tantamount to a poll tax, which is prohibited. Yet, as the organizations argue, it is difficult to understand how such IDs will in fact be free since the process for acquiring the necessary identity documents to obtain a photo ID from the local registrar could be expensive and/or require multiple visits to a local government office.
“Not only is a photo ID requirement unnecessary and onerous for hundreds of thousands of voters, it is also a costly proposal for taxpayers,” said Gastañaga. “The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis estimates that SB 1256 will cost taxpayers between $7.3 million and $21.8 million. Meanwhile, the General Assembly has appropriated just $166,250 for photo equipment. Where will Virginia find the remaining millions of dollars needed to fund this unnecessary law?”
In addition to the ACLU of Virginia, the following organizations urge the Governor to veto HB 1337 and SB 1256: Alliance for Progressive Values; The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy; NAACP Virginia State Conference; LatinoJustice PRLDEF; League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); Richmond Branch NAACP; Progress VA; Virginia New Majority; Central Virginia Chapter A. Philip Randolph Institute; Virginia Organizing; Virginia Civic Engagement Table; Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO); LULAC Council 4609; League of Women Voters of Virginia; Virginia AFL-CIO; Shirlington Employment and Education Center, Inc. (SEEC); NAKASEC; and Legal Aid Justice Center.
In a separate letter, the ACLU and a dozen other organizations also urge the Governor to veto SB 1077, which requires the State Board of Elections to verify voters’ citizenship status using the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program (SAVE). SAVE is a compilation of over 100 million records from over a dozen databases that is used to verify a person’s immigration status for the purposes of receiving public benefits.
“The use of SAVE to verify citizenship for the purposes of voting has an unacceptably high likelihood of error,” said Gastañaga. “Much of the information is based on a person’s immigration status at the point of an initial inquiry, leaving newly naturalized citizens vulnerable for being flagged as false non-citizens. Such was the experience for Florida, in which thousands of naturalized citizens were disfranchised.”
In addition to the ACLU, the following groups urge the Governor to veto SB 1077:
Alliance for Progressive Values; NAACP Virginia State Conference; LatinoJustice PRLDEF;
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); Richmond Branch NAACP; Progress VA;
Virginia New Majority; Central Virginia Chapter A. Philip Randolph Institute; Virginia Organizing; Virginia Civic Engagement Table; Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO); LULAC Council 4609; Virginia League of Women Voters; Virginia AFL-CIO; Shirlington Employment and Education Center, Inc. (SEEC); NAKASEC; and Legal Aid Justice Center.
A copy of the letter to the Governor regarding HB 1337 and SB 1256 can be found online at: https://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/2013-03-11voteridletter.pdf
A copy of the letter to the Governor regarding SB 1077 can be found online at: https://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/2013-03-11SAVEletter.pdf