Among many new Virginia laws that take effect as of July 1 will be the Commonwealth’s new voter photo ID law.
The new law will require Virginia voters to show an accepted form of photo identification before being able to cast their votes in any upcoming elections.
The law was sponsored by state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), who said the idea originally came to him during the 2000 presidential election, and that he has been working on getting the new law enacted for more than 12 years.
“The Bush/Gore election fiasco undermined voter confidence across the country,” he said. “I decided at that point that we needed photo identification legislation in Virginia to protect the integrity of our voters. Our voting system isn’t a perfect system. We know voter fraud exists, and this law will be a safeguard against fraudulent votes. It is our duty as elected officials to address this issue without undue burden on taxpayers.”
Under the new law’s provisions, Virginia residents who do not already possess one of the accepted forms of photo identification will be provided a photo ID card by their local registrar.
“Any Virginia drivers license or other DMV-issued photo ID, a U.S. passport, any Virginia higher-learning institution photo ID, any government-issued photo ID, and employer-issued photo IDs will be accepted,” said Edgardo Cortes, deputy secretary of the State Board of Elections.
Anyone without one of these accepted photo IDs will be able to go to a local registrar’s office and obtain a photo ID card free of charge.
But at least for the moment—according to officials—residents who apply for these free cards will not have to prove their identity in order to get one.
“Voters are currently not required to prove who they are to get a photo ID,” said Cameron Quinn, general registrar for Fairfax County. Quinn says that even though the new law goes into effect July 1, many of its provisions are still being worked out at the state level.
“Some key policy decisions need to be made before we can implement our plans at the local level,” she said.
One of the key policy decisions currently being debated is whether or not an expired drivers license or other accepted form of photo ID that has already expired will be accepted. “We are looking at an amendment that will be distributed for public comment in the next few days,” said Cortes about the controversial expired ID policy that was originally adopted by the election board on June 10 before they decided to re-examine it .
Cortes said the free voter photo ID program has already required capital output of $166,000 for hardware and equipment for the state’s 133 registrar’s offices to be able to provide the free photo ID cards, along with an annual estimated production cost of between $12,000 to $13,000 statewide.
“The state board has also set aside $200,000 per year for an educational outreach program to educate voters about the new law starting in July through fiscal year 2017,” he said.
Quinn estimates that only about three percent of Fairfax County’s 700,000 registered voters, or about 21,000 people, will need to obtain one of the free cards in order to be able to vote.