What’s good enough for Popeye is good enough for Virginia voters, but only for one more election. Anyone who shows up at Tuesday’s primaries without ID can simply sign what one state official refers to as a “Popeye affidavit,” swearing, “I am what I am.”
Under a voter ID law passed this year by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), voters will have to provide identification before their votes will be counted. But that law does not take effect until July 1.
The State Board of Elections issued a reminder to voters this week that the new law will not apply to the primaries. It came in response to a news item, posted on a Richmond-area television station’s Web site, that reported incorrectly that the law was already in effect.
“Rumor Buster,” read the title on the SBE news release, which also noted that the news item stated incorrectly that the new law requires voters to provide a photo ID. Photo ID will not be needed even when the law takes effect.
One of the most contentious pieces of legislation this session, the new law closes a loophole in Virginia’s long-standing voter ID requirements but also greatly expands the types of identification acceptable at the polls. National elections experts consider it less restrictive than many of the voter ID bills that Republicans have been pushing nationally, though Democrats still contend the measure will make it harder for racial minorities, the elderly and other groups to vote.
Under the law, which will apply to the Nov. 6 general election, voters must show one of the following: state voter registration card; Social Security card; valid Virginia driver’s license; other state, local or federal identification; valid student identification card issued by a Virginia institution of higher learning; valid employee identification card; current utility bill; current bank statement; current government check; paycheck that shows the name and address of the voter; concealed handgun permit.
After July 1, any voter who comes to the polls without one of those forms of identification will have to cast a provisional ballot. The voter must provide ID to the local electoral board by noon the Friday after the election before his or her vote will be counted.
Since those rules will not be in effect Tuesday, any primary voters without ID will be allowed to cast a regular ballot after signing an affidavit swearing that he is who he says he is.