Voting advocates say GOP bills would block access to ballot in Va.

RICHMOND — Voting rights advocates are expressing concerns about what they see as a renewed effort by Republicans this legislative session to make it harder for Virginians to cast a ballot.

At a press conference held Thursday, Tram Nguyen, associate director of Virginia New Majority, said that pending legislation that would require voters to show proof of citizenship or state-issued photo identification would be expensive to implement and could disenfranchise elderly, poor and minority voters.

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“At a time when our state is dealing with budget issues like transportation and education ... this is no time to fix problems that don’t exist,” Nguyen said. “They ought to be figuring out how to fix our electoral system to make it more efficient.”

Augustine Carter of Richmond said it took her nearly a year to prove that she is an American citizen after decades of voting using her baptism certificate. The 85-year-old did not have a birth certificate but had been able to obtain state-issued identification in previous years.

Carter said that when she tried to get her identification renewed in 2011, she was turned away.

“I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “They told me I couldn’t even prove that I was born in the United States.”

Carter worked with a genealogist to track down her school records and found herself in the 1940 Census, which she used to obtain a letter proving her citizenship.

With the presidential election over, Nguyen said advocates are worried that debate over bills related to voting and elections are taking a back seat to other priorities in the General Assembly.

Republicans have said that voter fraud should be addressed in Virginia, but Democrats have countered that such measures are aimed at suppressing voter turnout.

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