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Votes

On the Campaign Trail

McDonnell’s Moment

Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell may not have received the vice presidential nomination, but he got a great consolation prize this week — a prime-time speaking slot this year at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. The speech focused on job-creation numbers in Virginia and other Republican states, framing the election as a choice between “the status quo of an entitlement society, or dynamic change of an opportunity society.” George Mason University professor Mark Rozell is among those who say that McDonnell is positioning himself for a potential presidential run in the future.

“He has presented himself has a bipartisan leader who can talk to people across the aisle who doesn’t engage in overheated rhetoric,” said Rozell. “Frankly, a lot of people are looking for that.”

But that doesn’t mean the governor will have it easy. His graduate thesis at Regent University was critical of working women and feminists, which Rozell says could undercut his image as a moderate. And then there’s his voting record in the House of Delegates, where he represented a conservative district in Virginia Beach. In recent months, the governor has been pushed to the right by the Republican takeover of the state Senate.

“Everybody remembers the transvaginal ultrasound controversy,” said Rozell. “I don’t think that’s going to go away. He’s got some explaining to do on some of the social issues, where he could be vulnerable.”

One of those issues emerged yet again this week. Before his prime-time speaking engagement, McDonnell was chairman of the platform committee that approved a measure in support of a Constitutional amendment outlawing abortion — including in cases of rape or incest.

Are You Inactive?

Every election cycle, thousands of “inactive” voters are purged from the rolls. Some are able to cast provisional ballots, although they are not counted. Many are turned away from the polls.

Alexandria currently has 81,000 active voters and 21,000 inactive voters. After each federal election, about half of the inactive voters are purged from the rolls. That means about 10,000 voters are deleted from the list every other year. Invariably, some of these voters show up on Election Day and expect to cast a ballot.

“If I moved from Alexandria to Fairfax prior to the election in 2010, and I come back to my precinct in Alexandria, I’m not going to be able to vote,” said Alexandria Registrar Tom Parkins. “We would allow someone like that provisionally, but it’s not going to count.”

How long does is take to become inactive? That depends on where a voter moves. The deadlines are different for those who move within the state (one federal election cycle), within the jurisdiction (two federal election cycles) or within the precinct (an indefinite number of election cycles). As a rule of thumb, though, election officials strongly encourage anyone who has moved to register at their new address as soon as possible. The deadline for voters to change their address in this election cycle is Oct. 15.

“We don’t carry inactive voters indefinitely,” said Parkins. “Once an inactive voter does not show any activity or any voting for two federal elections, then they get deleted from the list.”

Identifying Voters

Just because voters are on the list of active voters doesn’t mean they’ll be able to cast a ballot. This year, for the first time, voters will have to show identification as part of a new voter ID law passed earlier this year by the General Assembly.

But don’t look for the new voter ID law in Virginia to receive the same kind of attention as efforts in other states.

“I think this is just grandstanding, frankly,” said George Mason professor Michael McDonald. “It’s nowhere on the same level of what we are talking about in places like Pennsylvania, Texas and California.”

Voters will not need photo identification. And they will not need multiple forms of ID. All they need is the voter registration card they will be receiving in the mail next month. Voters can also use a driver’s license if they want to, but they won’t have to in order to meet the letter of the law.