Va. Senate kills GOP push to let voters self-impose photo ID rule
Voters arrive at the Agricultural Service Center in Buckingham, Va., Nov. 3, 2020. (Parker Michels-Boyce / For the Virginia Mercury)
A proposal to let Virginia voters self-impose photo ID rules for their own ballot failed in the state Senate Tuesday along with every other Republican effort to reinstate mandatory photo ID in state elections.
In a meeting Tuesday afternoon, the nine Democrats on the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee repeatedly overruled six Republicans to kill the first batch of GOP-sponsored voting bills coming over from the House of Delegates.
In addition to blocking several photo ID bills, the committee defeated efforts to cut the early voting window from 45 days to 14 days, repeal the same-day voter registration system set to be implemented this year and ban absentee drop boxes.
As a result of those votes, all bills to bring back photo ID, a policy priority for Gov. Glenn Youngkin, are dead for the year. Though most Virginia voters still show a photo ID before casting their ballot, Democrats changed the law in 2020 to allow voters without ID to sign a form affirming their identity.
That includes the unconventional approach suggested by Del. Amanda Batten, R-James City, who said she filed her bill creating an opt-in photo ID system in response to an elderly constituent concerned about identity theft who “wanted to ensure that every time they were asked to purchase anything or vote that they would have to show a photo ID.”
“It would be required so that no one else would be able to act in their stead,” Batten said.
After several Republicans speakers said they had heard stories of people going to vote and finding out someone else had voted in their name, incredulous Democrats pressed for specifics and asked why there had been no formal complaints backed by evidence.
“Are those cases being prosecuted by anybody? If they’re not, why not? And why don’t we read about them in the newspaper?” asked Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath.
Clara Belle Wheeler, a former Republican member of the State Board of Elections, suggested it was too difficult to pursue fraud claims “because there’s no one to prosecute.” Upon further questioning, Wheeler said she could not provide the names of anyone who had claimed to have their ballot stolen.
The committee also defeated a bill to shorten the window for absentee ballots to arrive by mail. Del. Dave LaRock, R-Loudoun, had filed the legislation to repeal a 2020 law allowing ballots to be counted as long as they arrive before noon on the third day after an election. LaRock had co-patroned the earlier law, which was pitched partly as a way to help overseas military voters.
LaRock, who was stripped of a committee assignment last year over his involvement in a letter casting doubt on the validity of the 2020 presidential election, said he changed his mind because of the sharp increase in the number of absentee ballots being cast.
“Things have changed dramatically,” he said.
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