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Charlottesville Electoral Board weighs in on voter ID bills

The Electoral Board of the City of Charlottesville passed a motion at its February 1 meeting in opposition to HB 569 [1] (patroned by Delegate Danny Marshall) and HB 9 (patroned by Delegate Mark Cole, chairman of the House Privileges & Elections Committee). An amendment in the nature of a substitute for HB 569 was approved by the House P&E Committee’s Elections subcommittee on January 31, with several provisions to change Virginia’s voter ID laws. HB 9 [2] eliminates the long-standing practice of allowing voters to submit a sworn oath in the form of an Affirmation of Identity, rather than presenting a photo ID or legal substitute. It passed the House [3] on February 1.

The Charlottesville Electoral Board argued with regard to HB 569 that

the bill as currently written is an unfunded mandate on localities, requiring expenditures of money and resources that are already constrained. In addition, the mandates in this bill regarding identification requirements are cumbersome and inefficient. The mandate regarding provisional ballots for voters without specified identification documents will needlessly prolong the time it takes to canvass and certify an election.

Stating their shared “the desire to diminish incidents of voter fraud,” the Board’s three members also said that more “efficient and equitable” means to that end could be found, and that the bill should be tabled until there can be further consideration.

Similarly, the Board noted that

the alternative to presenting photo identification – the signing of an Affirmation of Identity under penalty of perjury – is a sufficient deterrent to voter fraud and should be retained as an option under the Virginia Code and urge that HB 9, which eliminates this alternative … also be tabled.

At the same time, the Board pointed out that

if a photo ID requirement becomes law, any photo ID that shall be acceptable under Virginia law should be specifically defined as one that is issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia and that out-of-state photo IDs (including driver’s licenses) and student ID cards issued by educational institutions should not be acceptable.

The motion, which was passed unanimously, will be included in the minutes of the Electoral Board’s first meeting of 2012 and will be transmitted to members of the General Assembly.

HB 569 has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee because of its adverse fiscal impact. It will also be heard by the full Privileges & Elections Committee today (Friday, February 3) at its meeting scheduled [4] for 9:30 a.m.

Full disclosure: I am one of two Republican members of the Electoral Board of the City of Charlottesville and now serve as its chairman.