On Tuesday afternoon, the Virginia House and Senate passed two bills to make the state’s voter ID law even stricter. The measures, sponsored by Sen. Dick Black (R-VA) and Del. Mark Cole (R-VA), would ban voters from presenting a utility bill, pay stub, government or Social Security card as proof of identity — all forms of ID allowed under the current law. They could still use a voter ID card, concealed handgun permit, drivers license, or student ID. But the Senate is also considering a bill that would even further restrict acceptable voting ID to photo IDs only.
Though Virginians endured marathon voting lines on November 6, with voters still waiting hours after polls officially closed, Republicans still claim that voting in the state is too easy. Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli (R-VA) recently called for stricter photo ID requirements because Obama “can’t win a state where photo ID is required.”
Virginia’s current voter ID law was one of the few approved by the Department of Justice, as it did not disproportionately impact minority voting rights. But if these new measures are signed into law, Virginia’s voter ID law will resemble the one in Texas that was struck down in court because it clearly disenfranchised minority voters. The DOJ estimated at least 600,000 voters would have been affected by Texas’ law — hitting minority and low-income communities hardest. If the U.S. Supreme Court decides to strike down the section of the Voting Rights Act that protects minorities’ voting rights, Virginia, Texas, and other states would be allowed to disenfranchise these voters.
Since Obama won the state in 2012, the Republican-dominated Virginia legislature has been accelerating their push to disenfranchise certain voters. While Democrats were distracted by the inauguration, Virginia Republicans quietly passed a gerrymandering plan to erase at least one Democratic seat. The state also considered a scheme to rig their electoral college votes and dilute minority voting power.