- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 9, 2000

RICHMOND The Virginia Senate gave final approval and the House tentative approval to bills that would identify a candidate's party affiliation on the ballot for national and state office elections.
That and a measure to require voters to show identification at the polls, of which versions passed both houses last week, are the first major legislation to be sent to governor for his signature. Gov. James S. Gilmore III supports both measures, making them a lock to become law.
Delegate Harry R. Purkey, Virginia Beach Republican and sponsor of the party affiliation bill, told lawmakers it would end yearly confusion for voters who have to ask elections workers what party candidates belong to a question poll workers aren't supposed to answer. He said elections officials and members of the AARP have been among those who have requested the change.
It would also end the confusion that results when partisans hand out sample ballots outside the polls listing their candidates, said Delegate
Terrie L. Suit, Virginia Beach Republican. "Anything to help our voters go to the polls in peace," she said.
But Delegate Anne G. "Panny" Rhodes, Richmond Republican, disagreed, arguing that it facilitates uninformed voting.
"If the only way they know how to vote is by a letter after your name, they are hardly an informed electorate," she said. Pointing to the example of Lacey E. Putney of Bedford, the sole assembly independent, she said, "I doubt there's anybody who doesn't know the gentleman is an independent who has any right to be in there voting."
Delegate James H. Dillard, Fairfax Republican, said that in a perfect world one might hope for an electorate that doesn't need party identification, but given the existing electorate it's necessary.
He also said the most common electoral request he hears from his constituents is to put party affiliation on the ballot.
The votes in both houses mostly followed party lines, with Republicans supporting the changes and Democrats opposing them. In the Senate, which approved their bill 20-19, four Democrats voted for affiliation on the ballot, and five Republicans voted against. In the House, where the vote was 51-49, two Republicans and the sole independent voted against the changes, while one Democrat, Joseph P. Johnson Jr., from Washington County, voted for it.
There are differences in each house's bills that will have to be worked out later.
The Senate version would apply to all elections, while the House version would only apply to candidates running for president, Congress, governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general or General Assembly.
Last week, both houses passed very similar bills that require voters across the state to show identification before voting.
The two elections measures are part of a triumvirate proposed by Republican leaders and Mr. Gilmore. Currently, Virginia only lists affiliation for presidential candidates the most restrictive of any state in the country, and a remnant of the Democratic party machine that dominated state politics for the early part of the century.
The third bill of the group, which would make voters to register with a party or officially be independent, is very controversial. Versions are still pending in committees of both houses.

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