When Virginia’s new voter identification law goes into effect statewide Tuesday, voting rights groups will monitor select polling places to help people comply with the rules, which are among the nation’s strictest.
For years, voters have been required to provide identification at the polls, but this year — for the first time in Virginia — an ID with a photograph will be required.
“We’re all very concerned about the implementation of the photo ID law across the state and whether or not voters have been educated about the fact that they need a photo ID to vote,” said Hope Amezquita, staff attorney and legislative council at the ACLU of Virginia.
Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of Virginia New Majority, said her organization plans to monitor 80 polling places. The Advancement Project, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the League of Women Voters are also part of the effort.
“Part of the reason we’re going to be out on Election Day is to see what the actual impact is on voters. At this point, we just don’t know,” Nguyen said.
Historically, turnout for midterm elections is lower than during presidential years, but voters in Virginia will cast ballots in crucial elections: a U.S. Senate race and in all 11 of Virginia’s congressional districts as well as for a long list of local contests.
Valid forms of ID include a driver’s license that has not been expired for more than one year or another photo ID issued by Virginia; a U.S. passport; a photo ID issued by the federal government; a student ID that has a photograph and was issued by a school in Virginia; or an employee ID card that has a photograph.
Registrars can issue voters a temporary photo ID at any time.
Voters who show up to the polls without acceptable identification will be allowed to vote by provisional, or paper, ballot. However, such votes will be counted only if voters go to the official register in their county or city travel before noon Nov. 7 to present proper ID or apply there for a photo ID.
Donald Palmer, secretary of the state Board of Elections, said voters should go online or call 800-552-9745 before Election Day to check the location of their polling place and make sure that their registration data is current.
“Preparation and review reduces the time [it will take] to actually vote and reduces the chance of any lines,” Palmer said.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot through the mail has passed. But voters have until Saturday to cast an absentee ballot in person at their local voter-registration office.
The voter ID issue has been the subject of contentious debate across the country — and in Virginia, where Republicans argue that the rules are needed to combat voter fraud.
Democrats say stricter voter ID laws are part of a GOP strategy to suppress the votes of minorities, the elderly, college students and the poor — groups that are more likely to vote for Democrats and less likely to have valid identification.
More information is available at www.GotIDVirginia.org or by calling the election protection hotline 866-687-8683.