- Associated Press - Monday, February 4, 2013

RICHMOND — Senate Democrats effectively delayed a Republican voter-identification bill for another year after Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling sided with them on Monday to break a party-line 20-20 tie.

In the first tie-breaking vote of the 2013 session since he withdrew his GOP gubernatorial bid last fall pledging a new independence from his party, Mr. Bolling voted for a Democratic amendment that delayed the voter-ID changes to July 2014.

The bill by Sen. Richard H. Black, Loudoun Republican, would have eliminated documents such as residential utility bills, current paycheck stubs or even Social Security cards as forms of identification accepted at polling places.

Those were added to a GOP law enacted last year by Republicans in the name of preventing voter fraud. Democrats likened it to Jim Crow-era laws and called it a Republican effort to suppress black, elderly and poor voters before last year’s presidential election. Those groups turned out in huge numbers.


This year, Republicans sought to tighten the criteria, citing a hidden-camera “sting” video made last fall by a conservative operative in which the son of U.S. Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, was recorded discussing the idea of having ballots cast by people using forged utility bills.

Democratic Sens. A. Donald McEachin of Henrico and John S. Edwards of Roanoke noted Monday that no money is in the budget to inform voters about the change in voter-ID standards before November’s elections for governor, two other statewide offices and all 100 House of Delegates seats.

“This is the second year in a row … that we made it more difficult to vote and for no reason,” Mr. Edwards said. “Fraud at the voting booth is extremely rare.”

Their amendment postpones the effective date in hopes that money for a voter-information campaign will be added to a later budget.

Sen. Stephen H. Martin, Chesterfield Republican, called the claim that disadvantaged classes would be burdened “a false argument,” noting last fall’s heavy turnout, which helped President Obama win Virginia for the second consecutive election.

“What it’s intended to do is make sure that those people that show up at the polls to vote are who they say they are,” Mr. Martin, chairman of the Privileges and Elections Committee, said in arguing that the amendment be rejected.

Republicans sat in stunned silence for 26 seconds after Mr. Bolling cast the decisive vote before the bill’s sponsor rose and, stammering, asked that the amended bill be advanced to its vote for final passage Tuesday.