Virginia Gov. McDonnell signs laws that expands voting access

POTOMAC, MD - APRIL 03: A sign points voters to a polling place during the presidential primary election at Saints Peter & Paul Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church April 3, 2012 in Potomac, Maryland. Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney hopes that primary elections in Maryland, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia will help secure his lead over rivals former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA). (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) Chip Somodevilla

Chip Somodevilla

(CBS News) Going against the trend of Republican-led states, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed voter ID bills into law that expand voting access. On Friday, the governor broadened the list of acceptable IDs for voters to present at the polls. He also issued an executive order that requires the state board of elections to mail voter registration cards to every registered voter in Virginia between now and Election Day.

The law passed by the Virginia General Assembly and signed by McDonnell will allow college students to present their ID from any Virginia college or university. The laws also allow voters to present a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, or a paycheck that shows their name and current address. Social Security cards were already adequate.

The new Virginia laws also eases requirements on voters who arrive at the polls without an acceptable ID. If such a voter is recognized by a poll worker, he or she will be able to vote. If not, the person can cast a provisional ballot instead without being required to sign a sworn affidavit affirming his or her identity.

"Every qualified citizen has the right to cast one vote. Not two votes; not zero votes. It is our duty as a democracy to ensure that is always the case," McDonnell said in a written statement. "This legislation does two things. It increases the forms of identification that can be used for purpose of voting, while helping to further prevent voter fraud and ensuring Virginians that they can have faith that votes have not been fraudulently cast."

Virginia, which first implemented a voter identification requirement in 2000, has never required that ID to include a photo. However, sixteen other states have adopted laws requiring photo IDs, purportedly to prevent voter fraud, a crime rarely prosecuted.

Critics allege the rush of photo ID laws are a Republican-led effort at voter suppression, particularly of racial minorities and youth, Democratic-leaning constituencies that are more likely to lack photo IDs.

McDonnell and Virginia's actions are in contrast to Mississippi, where just yesterday Governor Phil Bryant signed a restrictive voter photo ID law that requires voters to show a driver's license, passport, or government-issued photo identification before casting a ballot.

Mississippi's law also permits college students to present their in-state school photo ID and gun owners to present their license to carry a pistol or revolver.

"This legislation is about protecting the integrity of Mississippi's elections," Bryant said at the signing ceremony.

That law implements a referendum passed by 62 percent of Mississippi voters last November. Because Mississippi election laws are subject to Justice Department clearance, its secretary of state has said the new photo ID mandate is unlikely to be in effect this November.

The Justice Department is challenging similar photo voter ID laws passed last year in South Carolina and Texas as discriminatory against black and Latino voters.

Mississippi's law allows voters without acceptable photo IDs to cast an affidavit ballot that will be counted only if the voter travels to his or county clerk's office within five days and presents an acceptable photo ID he or she didn't possess on Election Day.

  • Phil Hirschkorn

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.