To the Editor:
Democracy is the foundation of the American way of life, and the driving force behind democracy is the power to vote. Now awaiting the governor’s signature are two bills seeking to modify the identification requirements for Virginia voters to require photo identification in order to cast a ballot. The bills have sparked much debate. One side is legitimately concerned about voter fraud, while the other is legitimately concerned about disenfranchising voters. Both of those concerns must be addressed if our democracy is to survive.
If there is one topic that is addressed multiple times throughout our federal and state constitutions, it is voting. After over 200 plus years it is well established that the only requirement to vote, other than attaining 18 years of age, is residency. At the federal level as provided by the U.S. Constitution, our congressmen are chosen by “the People of the several states.” At the state level, as provided by the Virginia Constitution, “all elections ought to be free; and that all men, having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to, the community, have the right of suffrage.” Under the Virginia Constitution, “Residence, for all purposes of qualification to vote, requires both domicile and a place of abode.”
Unfortunately, politics play a role in anything that affects voting. I believe it is important for everyone to step back and remember that we all want every vote to be counted, but only once. We do not want to let politics so cloud voting that we end up like our neighbors to the north with voting districts that resemble a Jackson Pollok painting.
I believe the bills crafted by the legislature adequately address the concerns on both sides of the issue. The bills as I read them, although they will require photo identification at the polls, will at the same time require each general registrar to issue free voter registration cards that will include both the photograph and signature of any voter who does not already have an acceptable form of photo identification. I have found nothing in the bills that will limit what can be used as proof that one is a resident and therefore qualified to vote at the registration stage, or that will require an already registered voter to do anything other than present their voter registration card for a new photo-voter card. At the voter registration stage, it appears that utility bills and bank statements will still be acceptable proof of residency. One need only register to vote to obtain a suitable photo-voter card.
John R. Griffin