By Michael Schuster, Capital News Service
The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee has approved a bill supporters say would help thwart voter fraud — but the proposal's opponents claim it would only make it harder to vote.
The committee voted 8-6 along party lines Tuesday for a bill that would limit the number of acceptable forms of voter identification – the types of documents someone must present in order to cast a ballot.
Currently, voters can identify themselves by presenting a voter registration card, a driver’s license or various other documents. House Bill 1337, proposed by Delegate Mark Cole (Fredericksburg) would remove utility bills, bank statements and paychecks from the list of documents that would be accepted at polling places. The House passed a substitute version 63-36 on Feb. 5, adding a provision that says the acceptable forms of ID must be “current and valid” and “contain a photograph or the name and address of the voter.”
On Tuesday, the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee endorsed the bill. All eight Republicans on the panel – including Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-27), who represents parts of western Loudoun – voted for the bill; all six Democrats voted against it.
HB 1337 now will be considered by the full Senate. (It passed the House with a 63-36 vote Feb. 5).Get daily and breaking news alerts from Ashburn Patch.
Cole said he believes the only way to prevent voter fraud is to narrow the forms of ID Virginians can present at the polls.
“In previous years, the numbers of acceptable forms of identification have been far too broad. I thought it was necessary to tighten up the list to more acceptable forms of ID,” Cole said. “By requiring a photo ID, we can help to curb deceptive practices.”
But his bill has drawn opposition from advocates for elderly and low-income Virginians, who tend to vote Democratic and are less likely to have a driver’s license or other photo ID. Critics see the bill as a bullying tactic to prevent certain people from voting.
Del. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) told the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star that HB 1337 would hurt older and less fortunate Virginians.
“There are people – mostly elderly, many of them but not all poor – who do not have any of these IDs that will be left, because they don’t drive anymore or because they don’t have a valid driver’s license,” McClellan said. “All they have is the voter registration card sent by the state.”
Under HB 1337, Virginia residents still could present voter registration cards and Social Security cards as acceptable forms of ID on Election Day.
The bill now awaits a full Senate vote.
How They Voted
How the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee voted Feb. 12 on “HB 1337 Polling place procedures; voter identification to be current, valid, and contain photograph.”
YEAS – Obenshain, Martin, Smith, Vogel, McWaters, Carrico, Reeves, Garrett – 8.
NAYS – Howell, Deeds, Edwards, Petersen, Northam, Alexander – 6.