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Votes

Governor Signs Voter ID Bills

McDonnell directs state to send every voter a new voter card before Election Day.

The Burke Centre polling place at the Commons Community Centre preps for Election Day.

The Burke Centre polling place at the Commons Community Centre preps for Election Day. Photo Contributed

Acceptable Forms of ID

Under the new legislation and existing law, the following are acceptable forms of ID for voting:

*Virginia voter registration card

*Social Security card

*Valid Virginia driver's license

*Any other identification card issued by an agency of the Commonwealth, one of its political subdivisions, or the United States

*Any valid student identification card issued by a Virginia institution of higher education

*A valid identification card issued by an employer containing a photograph of the voter

*A copy of a current utility bill

*A copy of a bank statement

*A government check

*A paycheck that shows the name and address of the voter

Voter Information

*If a new voter card has not been received, check voter registration status and information by going to the Virginia State Board of Elections at www.sbe.virginia.gov/

*For more information, go to Fairfax County Office of Elections website at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections

*Or contact the Office of Elections at 703-222-0776, TTY 711.

Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) signed watered-down versions of Virginia’s Republican-backed voter identification bills on Friday, adding the Commonwealth to the growing list of states adopting stricter voting standards.

Under the new law, voters will be required to show ID before they cast their ballots, a measure that Democrats in the Virginia General Assembly have said will disenfranchise many voters, especially minorities, the poor and the elderly.

To subdue critics, the Governor signed measures expanding the type of ID acceptable at the polls — which include a utility bill or a Virginia student ID card — and directed the State Board of Elections to send every registered voter a new card before the 2012 presidential elections in November.

"Every qualified citizen has the right to cast one vote. Not two votes; not zero votes," McDonnell said in a statement released Friday. "This legislation does two things. It increases the forms of identification that can be used for purpose of voting, while helping to further prevent voter fraud and ensuring Virginians that they can have faith that votes have not been fraudulently cast."

THE PREVALENCE — or absence — of voter fraud is at the heart of the debate over whether Virginia or other states need any new legislation.

"The ‘voter identification’ bills are a solution in search of a problem," said state Sen. Chap Petersen (D-34) in an email on Saturday. "Our current system is working fine. By agreeing to these gratuitous changes, the Governor is making the system less open and convenient to law-abiding citizens."

State Sen. David Marsden (D-37) has said that using voter fraud as a justification for new voter identification rules is a smokescreen for voter suppression. "When we’ve asked these legislators [in Virginia] to cite one example of voter fraud, they just can’t do it," Marsden said.

Even McDonnell noted Virginia’s "tradition of honest elections" and a voter compliance rate of nearly 100 percent in a survey of localities from the last presidential and gubernatorial elections in 2008 and 2009.

Currently, Virginia voters are allowed to vote without ID by signing a sworn affidavit affirming their identity. Under the new law, voters without ID cards will still be able to vote provisionally, on the condition they provide proper ID later for the vote to be counted.

"Some have argued that there are voters who do not have any form of ID to bring to the polls. For that reason, we will be sending every voter in Virginia a free voter card between now and Election Day to ensure they have at least one form of ID to bring with them to the polls," McDonnell said.

In addition to issuing every active voter a new card, McDonnell also ordered election officials to coordinate a public education campaign to help raise awareness about the approved ID to the polling place on Election Day, and the process for obtaining a free voter card if someone does not have a form of ID.

McDonnell said the additional steps his administration is taking to implement this legislation ensure that no voter is "overly burdened by the provisions included in this legislation."

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan research organization, Voter ID continues to be a high-profile and highly-contentious issue in many state legislatures. Currently, 32 states have voter ID legislation pending, and several states have pushed for rigorous laws that require voters to present a state-issued photo ID card.

JUST BEFORE McDonnell’s pronouncement, the Fairfax County Office of Elections launched a campaign to alert voters to new voter registration cards the state is in the process of mailing to approximately 195,000 county voters this week.

But the cards are being mailed only to voters affected by Congressional redistricting and voters still holding a card that included their Social Security Number (SSN), which will be replaced with a system-generated identification number.

Now, every registered voter will get at least one new voter card. The cards mailed out this week also indicate a language preference.

According to Cameron Quinn, Fairfax County’s chief elections official, as a result of the 2010 Census, Fairfax County falls under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires the county to provide voting and elections-related materials in English and Spanish.

She said Fairfax County is now providing voter information and materials for Spanish speakers. And the county’s website www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections has a Google Translations line that can translate information into Spanish and several other languages.

Quinn said that while the Fairfax County and state websites are updated, not all voter election web pages and links have been updated with the new congressional district information.

"Those voters whose congressional district changed as a result of redistricting are currently being mailed a new voter card," Quinn said. "Whether or not you received a new voter card, if you have questions or to be certain you know your congressional district information, refer to the county or state election office’s website for the correct information or call us at 703-222-0776."