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Virginia senate approves bills limiting acceptable voter ID

The Virginia Senate [official website] approved two bills [SB 1256, HB 1337] on Friday that restrict the acceptable forms of identification that voters can present at the polls. SB 1256 requires that voters present a photo ID that lists their address, such as a driver's license, passport or workplace photo ID [WP report]. HB 1337 removes utility bills and paychecks from the list of acceptable forms of voter ID. Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling [official website] provided the tie-breaking votes in the Senate to pass both bills. Bolling voted for the bills, but also passed amendments offered by Democrats to delay their implementation. The bills will now head to the Republican-controlled Virginia House, which approved similar legislation [JURIST report] last week.

Virginia's new laws mark the second time in two years that the Commonwealth has altered voting regulations. In August Governor Bob McDonnell [official website] announced [JURIST report] that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] had approved Virginia's voter ID law involving voting procedures, finding that the law did not violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 [text]. Prior to the law, the Commonwealth required ID at the polls, but allowed voters to cast ballots without it if they signed an affidavit swearing their identity. That law eliminated the affidavit option while adding several other acceptable forms of ID, all of which would be removed by the new new legislation. There are now more than 30 US States [NCSL backgrounder] that require voters to present some form of ID at the polls, including 17 states that have passed laws requiring photo ID. The issue remains legally controversial, most notably in South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota [JURIST reports].

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