The Virginia House of Delegates is considering a number of changes to voter ID laws in the commonwealth, but after a Senate bill was approved on Monday, photo identification is now the top stipulation for those at the ballot box. After a contentious election cycle in 2017, including a tie vote in Virginia’s 94th House District, identification laws have been a big topic, even though most Democrats oppose new measures.
Senate Bill 523 is set to require electronic poll data to contain a photograph of registered voters that are obtained by the general registrars in the production of voter photo identification cards or contained in a specific voter’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) record. The bill, approved only along party lines after a 21-19 vote, could eventually replace Virginia’s existing voter ID requirement.
In a report from WTOP, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), the bill’s sponsor, said, “It’s not going to allow any election official to actually turn anybody away right now at all. It is simply porting those IDs over and is simply an additional deterrent to casting votes illegally.”
Democrats in the Senate opposed the measure after they claimed it does not accomplish anything to improve existing voter ID laws. “I’m somewhat baffled as to its necessity…other than simply another voter suppression bill,” said Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton).
An ID is needed for many things nowadays. One must show identification to get a library card, purchase a alcohol, pick up will-call tickets, applying for food stamps, renting a car, obtaining a fishing license, purchasing over-the-counter medicines – the list goes on and on.
Additionally, the Senate voted afterwards in support of a measure to include political party affiliation of more candidates on state ballots, by a 28-12 vote. As of now, Virginia ballots only contain the party affiliation of candidates for federal, statewide and General Assembly offices. The bill make it that all candidates nominated by a political party be listed on the ballot along with the name of their party. The Senate will also take up legislation that would amend the order in which independent candidates for office are listed on the ballot.
Furthermore, a separate bill to raise the threshold amount for reporting a write-in candidate’s vote total in elections failed on Monday. Nevertheless, the Senate kept the bill to provide for members to add amendments for a future passage. Currently, the threshold is set at five percent, but would have raised that to 20 percent in reference to the votes cast for a write-in candidate to have the number of votes cast for the candidate detailed on a locality’s statement of results in an election.