The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Voters confused over valid IDs
SOME ID IS NEEDED WHEN GOING TO THE POLLS IN VIRGINIA, BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A PHOTO ID
BY BRIDGET BALCH
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
The State Board of Elections is working with local registrars to dispel the confusion over Virginia’s new voter ID law—caused largely by controversies over laws in other states.
Virginia’s voter ID requirements, by comparison, are largely unchanged.
In Virginia, voters can use almost any type of government-issued identification cards, as well as paperwork such as utility bills and paycheck stubs. A photo ID is not required.
In addition, thanks to an executive order issued by Gov. Bob McDonnell, by Oct. 1, every registered voter in the state will be mailed a new voter registration card that will be accepted at the polls.
While Virginia’s new voter ID requirements make it easier for voters to provide acceptable identification, several states have tried to make their voter ID requirements more stringent.
These requirements have met with heavy opposition, particularly from Democrats, who claim that these laws mirror literacy tests and other restrictions that were used in the past to prevent blacks from voting.
Opponents claim that these voter ID laws target minorities, the disabled, poor people and college students, groups that generally tend to vote Democrat.
For some states, including Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas, the fates of the new voter ID laws remain uncertain as the courts scramble to resolve challenges and appeals before the Nov. 6 election.
Virginia’s law, however, received pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice and has remained uncontested. Though election observers speculated that turnout this year would drop compared to 2008, the Fredericksburg area has actually seen an increase in voter registration.
Fredericksburg has 3,111 more registered voters as of Sept. 1 this year than it did on Sept. 1, 2008.
Registrations are up in Stafford County by 16,402, in Caroline County by 1,785, in Orange County by 3,586, in Louisa County by 2,164 and in Westmoreland County by 1,060.
Spotsylvania County has about 5,500 more than on Election Day 2008, according to Kellie Acors, the county’s registrar.
That totals about 33,600 more registered voters this year than there were in the beginning of September 2008 in those communities.
The number is likely to continue to rise since many new voters tend to register in late September and early October, according to Juanita Pitchford, registrar for the city of Fredericksburg.
Virginia’s new law also states that, should a voter be unable to present acceptable identification at the polling place, the voter may cast a provisional ballot, which will be held separate and not counted unless the voter can provide the necessary ID in person, by email, fax, mail or commercial delivery by noon the Friday following the election. Previously, if voters were unable to present ID, they could sign an affidavit of identity and cast a valid ballot.
With Virginia labeled as a possible swing state in what is shaping up to be a close election, some are worried that the new provisional ballots will cause “hanging chad”-type confusion.
If a large number of voters are required to vote with provisional ballots, enough to affect a close election, Virginia’s results for the presidential race may not be known for 2 days after the polls close.
Greg Riddlemoser, registrar for Stafford County, does not believe the new provisional ballot policy will present any great problems.
According to Riddlemoser, in Stafford’s elections over the past 15 months, fewer than a dozen voters failed to provide adequate ID and had to sign the affidavit.
The new law has caused some confusion for Virginia residents who have been hearing about the new photo ID requirements in other states.
“A lot of people have misinterpreted what they’ve been hearing,” Acors said. “They think they need a photo ID.”
Danette Moen, registrar of Caroline County, has also received calls from residents who said they heard on the radio or saw on the news that they needed to present a photo ID.
The registrars’ offices are doing what they can before Election Day to educate the public on Virginia’s laws.
According to Acors, the registrars are working with the State Board of Elections to produce literature, run television and newspaper ads, and distribute pamphlets with information to help voters know what to expect when they vote this year. A flier with information about the new voting policies was included with the mailing of the new voter registration cards.
All the information is also online at the State Board of Elections’ website, sbe.virginia.gov.
Some local registrars did express concern that voters may still be confused, in spite of efforts made to make them aware of the requirements.
“You can’t make people read stuff or pay attention,” said Donna Jenni, Orange County’s registrar.
“Anyone who is confused or has a question should call the registrars’ offices and we’d be happy to help them,” said Moen.
Last day to vote absentee in-person: Sat., Nov. 3
Election Day: Tuesday, Nov. 6
Acceptable Voter ID
- Virginia Voter Registration Card
- Valid Virginia driver’s license
- Military ID
- Government-issued ID
- Employer-issued photo ID card
- Concealed handgun permit
- Valid Virginia College ID
- Medicare or Medicaid card
- Current utility bill, bank statement, government check or paycheck indicating the name and address of the voter
- Social Security card
King George: 540/775-9186
State Board of Elections Web site: www.sbe.virginia.gov.
Bridget Balch: 540/374-5444