Aside from traditional swearings-in and pats on the back among legislators, it was a relatively quiet morning in Richmond on the first day of the 2012 General Assembly session. Any potential fireworks in the Senate were temporarily put on hold as the chamber recessed once for lunch, then again so that proposed new rules for the Upper Chamber could be prepared.
But Wednesday morning, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus made a passionate vow to fight tooth and nail against proposed measures they say are intended to suppress voting.
“We have an awful history on voting,” said Sen. Yvonne B. Miller, Virginia Beach Democrat. “We are now moving from a Senate that was very inclusive in its leadership to one that is monolithic.”
Virginia is one of a handful of mostly Southern states that is subject to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because of its history of discrimination at the polls.
Delegate Charniele Herring, Alexandria Democrat, stressed that with no documented evidence of voter fraud, there was no real reason to pass new ID laws, like one that would count the vote of a person who is unable to produce identification provisionally. Voters without ID can now simply sign a statement attesting they are who they say they are.
“Why should we not take the person’s word for it?” said A. Donald McEachin, Henrico Democrat. “These are solutions looking for problems.”
But proponents of the measure say that voter ID laws are simply meant to ensure the integrity of the voting process, are absolutely legal, and are in no way discriminatory.
But Mr. McEachin thought there was another motive there.
“An African-American won the presidency of the United States, and they can’t stand it,” he said.
Sen. L. Louise Lucas, Portsmouth Democrat, emphasized that the 18-member caucus, all Democrats, would work to represent all of the constituents of their districts, not simply the African-American community. Mamie E. Locke, Hampton Democrat, said that the caucus’s broader agenda for the 2012 session is to fight to protect the interests of groups like the poor, elderly, children, and the disabled.