Va. Senate passes voter ID measure

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The Virginia Senate on Monday approved a controversial measure requiring identification for voters to cast official ballots that proponents say is intended to combat fraud while opponents deride as a backhanded attempt at voter suppression.

The bill would require a voter to show a form of identification like a voter registration card, driver’s license, or paycheck before being allowed to vote. If the voter does not have proper ID and is not recognized by a poll worker, they can cast a provisional ballot.

Presently, voters who do not provide identification can simply sign an affidavit attesting they are who they say they are.

Senator Mark D. Obenshain, Harrisonburg Republican, tried to dispel any notion that it was a “photo ID” bill, since a person could present a utility bill, for example, in order to vote.

“I barely recognize the bill from the descriptions that have been given,” he said, adding that the measure is geared at one thing: fraud.

Democrats, though, insist that the measure and others like it are intended to keep people from voting, notably the poor, the elderly and minorities.

“It’s pretty obvious why bills like this are put in south of the 37th parallel,” said Senate Democratic Leader Richard L. Saslaw, Fairfax Democrat. “As I told people before, Ray Charles could see through this.”

The House of Delegates passed a similar bill last week.

The Senate deadlocked 20-20, and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican, broke the tie. It was his third tie-breaking vote this session; the first came on the opening day of session to organize the Senate, and the second was on a measure to bar state-funded projects from either requiring or prohibiting agreements with labor groups.

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