More than three dozen people have been charged with election fraud in Virginia in connection with the 2008 election, in some cases for registering to vote despite disqualifying felony convictions, state police said.
In the years since Virginia helped put Barack Obama in the White House, 38 people in the Commonwealth have been arrested on either felony or misdemeanor election fraud charges. A warrant has been issued for a 39th, said police spokeswoman Corinne Geller.
State police compiled those figures recently in response to a request from the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The newspaper was examining the prevalence of voter fraud, which was a hotly debated topic during this year’s General Assembly session.
In pushing for voter ID bills, Republicans argued they were needed to ensure the integrity of elections. Democrats contended that there was scant evidence of widespread voter fraud and that the bills were intended to deter minorities, the elderly and students from voting.
The state police figures may do little to settle that debate, since the 39 cases of alleged election fraud are out of more than 3.7 million voters who participated in the 2008 election.
The news report came out this week as Gov. Robert F. McDonnell weighs whether to sign a pair of voter ID bills that cleared the House and Senate.
As originally passed, the bills required voters to present identification but also expanded the types of acceptable forms to include such things as utility bills, bank statements and four-year college IDs. Those who come to the polls without identification would have to cast provisional ballots, which would only be counted if the voter later returned with ID or provided a copy electronically.
McDonnell amended the bills to add any college identification, including two-year schools. The House and Senate signed off on that change when it reconvened last week to pass a budget and consider McDonnell’s seven vetoes and amendments he made to more than 100 bills.
But the General Assembly balked at another change McDonnell had proposed for the bills. Under that amendment, a vote cast without ID would get counted if the signature on the provisional ballot matched the one on the voter’s registration record.
It would fall to local elections officials to compare the signatures, and some have expressed concern since they do not have expertise in handwriting analysis. So the General Assembly rejected that amendment.
McDonnell can either sign the bills without that provision or veto them. They cannot be further amended. Tucker Martin, McDonnell’s spokesman, has said the governor is reviewing the legislation.
This post has been updated since it was first published.