Virginia Lawmakers Approve Strict Measure Requiring Voters To Show Photo ID

After President Obama won the state in November, Virginia Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli (R) called for stricter photo ID requirements because Obama “can’t win a state where photo ID is required.” On Wednesday, Virginia lawmakers proved they were listening to Cuccinelli, voting to adopt a photo ID requirement among the strictest in the country.

During the 2012 election cycle, voter ID laws were a huge hit with Republican-controlled state legislatures — but somewhat less popular with the courts. Judges struck down a number of voter ID laws due to the disproportionate impact they would have for minorities, seniors, and low-income voters. Virginia’s voter ID law was one of the few that survived review by the Justice Department, as its list of acceptable ID was flexible enough that it would not harm minority voting rights.

If Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) signs these new requirements into law, voters will have to present a government-issued card bearing their photo, such as a drivers license or a passport. If they do not have a photo ID, they will have to fill out a provisional ballot that will be discarded if they cannot produce the required ID by the Friday after an election:

On a 65-34 vote, the House completed legislative action on a strict photo identification bill that would require all voters to present identification such as a drivers license or passport bearing a photo of the holder to cast a regular ballot. Those without it would have to vote a provisional ballot that would count only if the voter could provide local election officials with the required identification by noon on the Friday after the election. Only one Democrat supported the measure.

An almost identical measure was blocked in Texas under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires certain regions with a history of discrimination to “pre-clear” any election law changes with the DOJ. An appeals court determined Texas’ law would clearly hurt minority and low-income communities, who are much less likely to have the requisite identification. Under Section 5, Virginia’s new requirements would almost certainly be blocked by the DOJ. However, the US Supreme Court will hear arguments next week on the validity of this section of the VRA. If the court strikes down Section 5, minority voters will be left vulnerable in Virginia, Texas, and other states that targeted minority voting power during the Jim Crow era.

Earlier this month, Virginians endured colossal lines on Election Day, with some voters still waiting hours after polls officially closed. Still, lawmakers seem convinced that voting is too easy in Virginia. On Wednesday, the House also passed a bill to purge any non-citizens on Virginia’s voter rolls by accessing a federal immigration database. Florida and Colorado fought costly legal battles for access to this same database, but failed to find almost any confirmed non-citizen voters.