For Immediate Release: January 24, 2013
Hundreds of thousands Virginians could face obstacles at the ballot box under proposed measures
Richmond, Va. – Citzens and grassroots advocates this morning condemned proposed legislation that would make it harder for hundreds of thousands of Virginians to vote. At a press conference at the State Capitol, citizens asked legislators to stop the attacks on voting rights.
Augustine Carter, a lifelong Virginian, illustrated how difficult it may be for some Virginia voters to obtain a valid voter ID under the proposed restrictions. Ms. Carter spent 6 years working to obtain a Virginia photo ID, a task made difficult by her lack of a birth certificate. "I've voted all my life. I don't have a birth certificate, only a record of my baptism. When the laws changed, that wasn't enough. I couldn't vote anymore, or even prove I'm an American. It took me 6 years to get a Photo ID so I can vote from now on."
The proposed restrictions could effect hundreds of thousands of Virginia voters while costing the state millions. Tram Nguyen, associate director of the grassroots organization Virginia New Majority, cited a recent study by The Commonwealth Institute. "Voting is a fundamental American freedom. Virginia should be prioritizing home front investments in education, health care and transportation, not spending millions on new restriction that make it harder to vote." The Commonwealth Institute found over 800,000 Virginians could be affected by proposed "photo ID" measures, costing the Commonwealth between $7 and $22 million.
The Rev. Melanie Mullen also spoke out against attacks on voting rights. "Our elections should be free, fair, and equally accessible to everyone," said Rev. Mullen. "New restrictions that require a specific kind of ID that many voters don't have makes it harder for thousands of eligible voters to participate in our democracy. The ability to vote and choose our leaders is at the heart of what it means to be an American. I urge our elected officials to not infringe on this fundamental freedom."
David DeBiasi of Virginia AARP also opposes new voting restrictions.. "Older people who have voted all their lives shouldn't have to worry if they have the right kind of ID to vote on Election Day."
Grassroots organizations from across the Commonwealth have joined together in opposition of new voting restrictions. AARP Virginia, ACLU of Virginia, Central Virginia Chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Northern Virginia Coalition, ProgressVA, Richmond NAACP, SEIU Virginia 512, Virginia AFL-CIO, Virginia Civic Engagement Table, Virginia New Majority, and Virginia Organizing released a joint statement. "Our elections should be free, fair, and accessible. When politicians require eligible voters to have a specific kind of ID, which they know many voters don't possess, in order to cast a ballot, they do a disservice to democracy. In the world's leading democracy, it shouldn't be difficult or expensive for any eligible voter to cast a ballot."