New voter-ID law will be in effect for November elections
The new law effectively changes how provisional votes are treated. Prior to the new law, which was given preclearance by the U.S. Department of Justice this week, voters without ID at the polls could cast a provisional ballot without prejudice. The new law still allows voters without ID on them at the polls to cast a provisional ballot, but for their votes to be counted they have to present proof of their identity to the voting registar before noon Friday the week of the election.
Critics of the law say that it is in line with laws enacted in states across the country as part of a Republican Party effort to depress voter turnout among traditional Democratic voting blocs among the poor, minorities and seniors.
“The new voter ID law is a solution to a problem, voter impersonation fraud, that by all accounts does not exist in Virginia,” said Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, the executive director of the Virginia chapter of the ACLU.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, defends the law as “commonsense legislation” aimed at “protecting against voter fraud and making sure our elections are secure are critical for confidence in our democracy.”
“The legislation I signed into law is a practical and reasonable step to make our elections more secure while also ensuring access to the ballot box for all qualified voters,” McDonnell said.
Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli offered similar verbiage from the same set of GOP talking points.
“Securing our elections and protecting against voter fraud are critical components in preserving our representative democracy and the election process as a whole,” Cuccinelli said. “I am pleased that the Department of Justice has once again precleared a change in election law that will help to defend the integrity of Virginia’s democratic process and allow all voters to feel secure that their votes count and are not diluted by others committing fraud.”
To Gastanaga, the law is a solution looking for a problem.
“The fact is that the enhanced voter ID law has no real purpose or effect other than to make it harder for everyone in Virginia to vote. We believe that the law will have a significant adverse effect on minorities, the elderly and the working poor, particularly those without cars who are dependent on rides from others or public transit, and we will be monitoring its implementation closely for this reason. The enactment of this new and unnecessary barrier to voting continues Virginia’s long and sad tradition of seeking to limit the right to vote rather than expand it,” Gastanaga said.
In terms of impact on the 2012 elections, that’s a hard one to get a handle on, if only because the actual number of voter-fraud cases is so miniscule to be practically none.
“Inevitably there are going to be people who forget to bring some form of ID, particularly people who are used to being able to vote without having to bring something with them. So my guess is that it can have some impact, but we just have no idea how much impact it will have,” University of Virginia Center for Politics analyst Geoff Skelley said.