For Immediate Release: January 29, 2013
Richmond, VA – The Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee this evening approved SB719 and SB1256, new voting restrictions that could make it harder for hundreds of thousands of Virginians to cast a ballot. Voting rights advocates sharply condemned the proposals.
"The integrity of our elections is paramount, but the real threat to democracy are politicians who are trying to change the rules to make it harder for hundreds of thousands of Virginians to vote," said ProgressVA Executive Director Anna Scholl. "Our elections should be free, fair, and accessible. Mandating eligible voters show a specific kind of ID, which these politicians know many voters don't have, reduces access to democracy."
Virginia Organizing Chairperson Sandra A. Cook also spoke out on the restrictive new legislation. "Voting is a sacred right in our democracy. Requiring a specific ID creates a barrier to access to the polls and it is unfathomable why our legislators would choose to support efforts to decrease civic participation."
Any new Virginia voter ID requirement would likely be subject to pre-clearance by the federal Department of Justice under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Contrary to insinuations in the hearing by Committee Chairman Mark Obenshain and Senator Tom Garrett that no voter education would be necessary on new restrictions, the Commonwealth would be required to submit such a plan to DOJ. In 2012, the State Board of Elections spent close to $2 million dollars educating Virginians about the new voter ID law. Additionally, the state would be required to provide identification free of charge to any citizen without appropriate photo ID under the new restrictions.