UPDATE: Virginia poised to tighten voter ID requirements

4/13/12: Good news! Governor Bob McDonnell has not yet signed SB 1.Instead, he sent the bill back to the Senate for several amendments:

But McDonnell, often mentioned as a possible vice presidential contender, sent the measure back to lawmakers, saying voters should be given more time - until the Friday after an election - to present proper identification.

McDonnell also proposed allowing officials to validate provisional ballots given to those without proper identification by comparing their signatures at the voting booth with those on file with the state election board in the absence of valid identification.

[ . . . ]

McDonnell's proposals in Virginia also include broadening acceptable identification to include community college identity cards and removing a clause relaxing the voter ID requirements if an election officer recognizes the voter.

The Virginia General Assembly will consider the amendments when the session reconvenes next week.

3/9/12: SB 1, which came down to a tie vote last week in the Virginia Senate, broken by Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, has now passed the House. Expected to be signed by Governor Bob McDonnell, the new law will tighten voter ID requirements in the state by, among other provisions, removing the option for voters without ID to swear to their identity and replacing it with a provisional ballot that then forces voters to leave and prove their identity later but before their vote is counted. Read the Washington Post editorial and Virginian-Pilot column opposing the measure. The Commonwealth Institute reported on its costly implementation, a fact not lost on the state’s voter registrars.

There is no question that we have a lot of work to do to ensure that eligible Americans can exercise their right to vote. But the goal should be fair and honest enfranchisement, not the politics of distraction. Just as SB 1 did with its tie vote, voter ID has proven to be a political distraction.

Last fall’s The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation, details just how harmful the politics can be.

“This report reveals just how the far the Right Wing is willing to go to win elections,” continued Keegan. “Eroding the achievements of the Civil Rights movement by disenfranchising voters is abhorrent. All Americans have a fundamental right to vote, and we need to be vigilant to make sure that ever eligible voter is ready and able to vote on Election Day."

It certainly appears that the Right Wing is behind SB 1. ALEC Exposed reports that its lead sponsor, Stephen Martin (R-11), is ALEC’s Virginia Chair, and the lead sponsor of its House companion (HB 9), Mark Cole (R-88), is also affiliated with ALEC. ALEC itself is a voter ID proponent.

ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council, was the subject of its own Right Wing Watch: In Focus report. PFAW Foundation describes the organization as:

A one-stop shop for corporations looking to identify friendly state legislators and work with them to get special-interest legislation introduced. It’s win-win for corporations, their lobbyists, and right-wing legislators. But the big losers are citizens whose rights and interests are sold off to the highest bidder.

Regarding voter ID and election laws:

ALEC is directly tied to the emerging trend among state legislatures to consider voter ID laws. Using false allegations of “voter fraud,” right-wing politicians are pursuing policies that disenfranchise students and other at-risk voters,--including the elderly and the poor--who are unlikely to have drivers’ licenses or other forms of photo ID. By suppressing the vote of such groups, ALEC’s model “Voter ID Act” grants an electoral advantage to Republicans while undermining the right to vote. In addition, ALEC wants to make it easier for corporations to participate in the political process. Their Public Safety and Elections taskforce is co-chaired by Sean Parnell of the Center for Competitive Politics, one of the most vociferous pro-corporate election groups, and promotes model legislation that would devastate campaign finance reform and allow for greater corporate influence in elections.
PFAW Foundation