A group of voting-rights activists delivered 6,000 petition signatures to Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) Thursday, urging him to veto two bills that they said were aimed at suppressing the minority vote.
One of the bills that petition-signers oppose is HB63. It would restrict access to electoral board meetings where provisional ballots are counted. Only authorized representatives for each political party or independent candidate and representatives of those who cast provisional voters would be allowed to observe.
News media and other observers would not be permitted. Advocates for the bill, sponsored by Del. Mark L. Cole (R-Spotsylvania), said the changes were needed to prevent a “circus atmosphere” from surrounding the count.
Opponents said it would undermine people’s faith in the electoral system.
“The people who cast the votes don’t decide elections; the people who count the votes do,” Del. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax) declared in a floor speech opposing that measure. “You know who said that? Joseph Stalin.”
The other legislation targeted in the petition was Senate Bill 1. It would require that voters provide identification at the polls, but also expands the types of ID that will be accepted.
For decades, Virginia has required voters to provide a voter registration card, Social Security card, driver’s license, government-issued identification or photo ID from a private workplace. But about 10 years ago, Virginia changed the law to allow people who arrive at the polls without identification to vote as long as they sign a sworn statement that they are who they claim.
Under SB1 and an identical bill in the House, HB9, voters without ID would only be allowed to cast a provisional ballot, which would not be counted unless the voter provided ID within six days — in person, or via fax or e-mail. The bill expanded the list of identification to include a student ID, current utility bill, bank statement, government check or paycheck bearing the voter’s name and address.
Republicans behind the legislation contend it is needed to combat voter fraud. Democrats and the activists who presented the petitions said the bills were intended to hold down the votes of minorities, the elderly seniors, immigrants and young people, who they say are less likely to have ID.