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Va. High Court Panel Bars Voter ID Plan

By R.H. Melton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 23, 1999; Page A16

RICHMOND, Oct. 22 A Virginia Supreme Court panel issued a ruling today that effectively kills a program that would have required voters in two Northern Virginia counties and eight other localities to present identification before voting in the Nov. 2 elections.

By 5 to 1, the judges upheld an injunction granted to state Democrats this week blocking the start of a pilot program under which residents of Arlington and Fairfax counties, along with those in eight other jurisdictions, would have had to show an ID when voting next month. The program had been approved by the General Assembly.

"As far as Nov. 2, the pilot program will not go on," said Randy Davis, a spokesman for state Attorney General Mark L. Earley (R).

On Thursday afternoon, after a brief hearing before the court, lawyers for the administration of Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) said they could have waited until late Monday before mailing $275,000 worth of voter identification cards and other literature to the localities.

Today's decision killed the voter experiment for now. The pilot program may be revived after a trial on its merits, Davis said.

In dissenting, Justice Cynthia D. Kinser said she could "find no evidence of irreparable harm" to Democrats and others who objected to the pilot program.

"Nor do I believe the public interest is served by the issuance of an injunction . . . which seeks to further the public good by preventing voter fraud," Kinser said.

Kinser is a Republican appointee, while the five judges who rejected the appeal are Democratic appointees.

Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the state Republican Party, said fraud could continue. "Democrats ought to be planting [campaign] signs in graveyards all across the commonwealth," he said.

Replied Craig K. Bieber, the spokesman for state Democrats: "Virginia does not have a voter fraud problem. Virginia has a voter participation problem.

"We did not need this," Bieber said.

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© 1999 The Washington Post Company

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