Voter identification requirements; photo ID required at polls, application for absentee ballot. (SB1256)

Introduced By

Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) with support from co-patron Sen. Frank Ruff (R-Clarksville)

Progress

Introduced
Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law

Description

Voter identification requirements; photo ID. Requires photo ID at the polls by eliminating all forms of identification that do not contain a photograph of the voter from the list of forms of identification any one of which a voter must present in order to be allowed to vote. The bill also adds a valid United States passport to the list and requires that a student identification card issued by an institution of higher education in the Commonwealth contain a photograph in order to be used by a voter. The bill does not affect the right of a voter who does not present one of the required forms of identification to cast a provisional ballot. The bill also provides that the State Board shall provide voter registration cards that contain a voter's photograph and signature if the voter does not possess other satisfactory photo ID. Read the Bill »

Outcome

Bill Has Passed

History

DateAction
01/10/2013Presented and ordered printed
01/10/2013Presented and ordered printed 13103249D
01/10/2013Referred to Committee on Privileges and Elections
01/24/2013Impact statement from DPB (SB1256)
01/29/2013Rereferred from Privileges and Elections (7-Y 6-N)
01/29/2013Committee substitute printed 13104633D-S1
01/29/2013Reported from Privileges and Elections with substitute (7-Y 6-N) (see vote tally)
01/29/2013Rereferred to Finance
01/31/2013Impact statement from DPB (SB1256S1)
01/31/2013Reported from Finance with amendment (10-Y 5-N) (see vote tally)
02/04/2013Constitutional reading dispensed (40-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/05/2013Read second time
02/05/2013Reading of substitute waived
02/05/2013Committee substitute agreed to 13104633D-S1
02/05/2013Reading of amendment waived
02/05/2013Committee amendment agreed to
02/05/2013Amendment by Senator McEachin rejected (20-Y 20-N) (see vote tally)
02/05/2013Chair votes No
02/05/2013Engrossed by Senate - committee substitute with amendment SB1256ES1
02/05/2013Printed as engrossed 13104633D-ES1
02/05/2013Constitutional reading dispensed (40-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/05/2013Passed Senate (20-Y 20-N) (see vote tally)
02/05/2013Chair votes Yes
02/08/2013Impact statement from DPB (SB1256ES1)
02/11/2013Placed on Calendar
02/11/2013Read first time
02/11/2013Referred to Committee on Appropriations
02/11/2013Assigned App. sub: General Government
02/13/2013Impact statement from DPB (SB1256ES1)
02/13/2013Subcommittee recommends reporting (6-Y 1-N)
02/15/2013Reported from Appropriations (15-Y 7-N) (see vote tally)
02/19/2013Read second time
02/20/2013Read third time
02/20/2013Passed House (65-Y 34-N)
02/20/2013VOTE: PASSAGE (65-Y 34-N) (see vote tally)
02/23/2013Enrolled
02/23/2013Bill text as passed Senate and House (SB1256ER)
02/23/2013Signed by President
02/23/2013Signed by Speaker
02/25/2013Impact statement from DPB (SB1256ER)
03/25/2013G Approved by Governor-Chapter 725 (effective 7/1/14)
03/25/2013G Acts of Assembly Chapter text (CHAP0725)

Video

This bill was discussed on the floor of the General Assembly. Below is all of the video that we have of that discussion, 11 clips in all, totaling 35 minutes.

Comments

ACLU-VA Voting Rights, tracking this bill in Photosynthesis, notes:

The ACLU of Virginia strongly opposes legislation that places unnecessarily burdensome and unconstitutional identification requirements on voters at an unprecedented cost to the state. More than 21 million Americans of voting age lack documentation that would satisfy photo ID laws and a disproportionate number of these Americans are low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, and elderly. Assuming national statistics apply to Virginia, over 600,000 Virginians would be disenfranchised because they do not have a government-issued ID. There is no credible evidence that in-person voter impersonation fraud – the only type of fraud that photo IDs could prevent – is even a minor problem in Virginia. Mandatory photo-ID laws suppress the right to vote and by requiring the State Board of Elections to provide a voter registration card with a photo-ID will be costly to Virginia.

ACLU-VA Legislative Agenda, tracking this bill in Photosynthesis, notes:

The ACLU of Virginia strongly opposes legislation that places unnecessarily burdensome and unconstitutional identification requirements on voters at an unprecedented cost to the state. More than 21 million Americans of voting age lack documentation that would satisfy photo ID laws and a disproportionate number of these Americans are low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, and elderly. Assuming national statistics apply to Virginia, over 600,000 Virginians would be disenfranchised because they do not have a government-issued ID. There is no credible evidence that in-person voter impersonation fraud – the only type of fraud that photo IDs could prevent – is even a minor problem in Virginia. Mandatory photo-ID laws suppress the right to vote and by requiring the State Board of Elections to provide a voter registration card with a photo-ID will be costly to Virginia.

robert legge writes:

Can a supporter of this bill cite any evidence that anyone has ever been convicted of wrongful voting where a photo ID would have prevented it?

David Wright writes:

How would anyone have been "convicted" if they showed up, cast a ballot for someone else, and then walked out? These people don't get caught and only a very few actually raise their hands afterwards and proudly declare they cast a ballot in someone else's name. No one goes around banging on doors after the election fingerprinting people and comparing their fingerprints to ones on the ballot. This is the whole point- when you lack effective detective controls in a system you turn to preventative controls and that's why this is.

One of the first lessons in dealing with fraud is that the level of detected fraud is never representative of the total amount in a population. That's because they entire point of perpetuating a fraud is NOT to be caught and the human factor (taking action to remain undetected) means it's not evenly distrubuted. It's even more true in this case because the detection risk is so high (chance of detection close to zero).

Second lesson is that you don't just sit back and WAIT for a significant fraud to take place and, for example, skew the results of an election. You put reasonable preventative controls in place to address the RISKS of fraud in a system, to protect its integrity and appearance of integrity, not to retrcoactively respond to actual instances of fraud if and when they are ever documented.

Waldo Jaquith writes:

How would anyone have been "convicted" if they showed up, cast a ballot for someone else, and then walked out? These people don't get caught and only a very few actually raise their hands afterwards and proudly declare they cast a ballot in someone else's name.

We have two controls in place to catch such imaginary people. The first is that when somebody shows up to vote, their name is checked off on the poll book. Should a second person show up and attempt to vote with the same name, that would raise alarms. (That, however, does not happen.) The second is that precincts are small enough such that poll staff—who often live in the precinct—observes everybody who comes to vote. If somebody voted twice, that would be observed by staff. If somebody showed up claiming to be somebody known to poll staff, they are trained to contact the SBE who, in turn, would contact the police.

In-person voter fraud is useless, because elections nearly always hinge on enormous numbers of votes. For in-person voter fraud to work, it would require orchestrated efforts involving tens of thousands of people, which would almost certainly be caught by either of the two controls that I've mentioned. It's practically impossible, which is precisely why it's not done.

You cannot name anybody who has been convicted of illegal voting in Virginia because it does not exist. We might as well outlaw elephant hunting or require insurance against alien abductions. There is no need to pass laws to prevent non-existent behavior.

David Wright writes:

Sorry but your suggestion that the risk is somehow mitigated by the assumption that "precincts are small" and poll workers would somehow just reconize everyone's face and match it to their name is laughable. Also the risk isn't that someone will come in an use the same name twice; these are the three primary risks:

1) people will combine voter ID fraud with voter registration fraud (any state that has done a full purge of its registration rolls has found an alarming number of false registrations, a lot of dead people but also fake people with fake addresses....) and cast a ballot on behalf of puppet people.
2) People can and do register twice in different states (one study found significant overlap between Florida and New York). Requiring an in-state ID when you show up at the polls would help mitigate this.
3) People are able to cast a ballot on behalf of those they know will not show up, whether its a family member (most likely), a deceased or infirmed neighbor, or someone from a list of registered voters where it is known they have a confirmed history of not voting (these lists by their way are readily accesible to campaign staffs, precisely the people with the highest incentive and opportunity to commit this kind of fraud.)

A lack of convictions does NOT prove a lack of fraudulent votes. That is what's known as a "logical fallacy." Even if you could somehow detect the number of fraudulent votes (you can't) you could never convict someone because you could never find or prove who cast what ballot after they left the booth.

If you are going to insist that deliberate fraudulent voting is impossible and doesn't happen- well, don't take my word for it, I invite you to watch this video of Jim Moran's son / field director describing how to do it.

http://www.examiner.com/article/video-son-of-democratic-congressman-conspires-to-commit-voter-fraud

How anyone can watch this video of this absolute creep and then still pretend that no risk exists is beyond me. Maybe their extreme political bias is preventing them from thinking clearly. Whatever the case, personally I think free and fair voting is an institution worth protecting from jerks like this.

Don L writes:

I really don't understand how anyone objects to this bill. Most everyone has a driver's license. Today I'm refinancing my house and I need TWO PICTURE ID's!

Sarah Williams writes:

I object to this bill because it discriminates against people who do not have money, own cars, or drive. These are the poor, the elderly, and the disabled. To require a photo ID for the sole purpose of voting constitutes a poll tax if a person has to pay for it, and an expense to the state if the state pays for it.

In addition, it is not necessary or more secure than the current voter registration card, and is less effective than some other forms of ID that are accepted, such as a current utility bill. I look enough like my sister to pass for her and use an ID with her photo just as easily as her current voter registration card. A photo is not a proof positive ID.

In addition to being an expense, checking a photo ID and holding Officers of Election responsible for assuring that the person's face matches their photo will slow down lines and consume time at the polls, aggravating rather than mitigating our worst problem from the last election and discouraging voters.

It will take state money from transportation and health care, or it will turn into a poll tax for some voters, it will slow down voting, and localities will have to pay more by bringing in more Officers of Election or staying open longer hours.

The legislation is proposed purely for suppression of the vote, and if signed into law, that is what it will do. This is reprehensible when on-line operations can identify me with a degree of certainty that satisfies governments and banks, all with bits of information that cost virtually nothing. I can hold this information in mind and put it in the right place when I need it, even if I lose my wallet, if I misplace a piece of paper at a critical moment, or if my house burns down or is lost in a flood. This is an expensive, unnecessary, and out-of-date method of solving a problem we do not have for a purpose that is contrary to the ideals of democracy.

Waldo Jaquith writes:

A lack of convictions does NOT prove a lack of fraudulent votes.

Wonderful—so you'll be buying some of my alien abduction insurance, then? It's $1,000/year, and deals with the very real, urgent problem of alien abductions.