- Associated Press - Friday, February 19, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia voters would have to show ID at the polls, have someone they know vouch for them, or cast a provisional ballot, under a bill that passed the Republican-led House of Delegates on Friday.

Delegates approved the voter ID bill by a 64-34 margin, largely on party lines, sending the legislation to the GOP-controlled Senate for consideration. The requirements would be effective starting in the 2018 elections.

Eleven states have strict voter ID laws, under which voters without acceptable IDs have to cast provisional ballots and take more steps after Election Day for their votes to count, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The conference says that 22 states have less strict voter ID laws, where at least some voters without acceptable IDs can cast ballots that count without additional action by the voter.

Republicans in West Virginia cast the bill as an attempt to prevent voter fraud, saying that dismal election turnout in West Virginia is partly due to voter distrust in the system.

In the 2014 general election, 37.3 percent of West Virginia registered voters turned out at the polls - the lowest for a regular general election since at least 1950.

“(People) don’t think their vote counts,” said Del. Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha. “And that is in part because they do not have confidence in the integrity of the election.”

Democrats said there’s no record of convictions for voter impersonation in West Virginia, and contended the bill aims to keep turnout low, especially among the elderly, poor populations and minorities.

“This is class-A voter suppression,” said Del. Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson. “And it’s wrong.”

The bill would require presenting a state or federally issued ID at the polls featuring a name and photo, ranging from driver’s licenses to valid in-state high school IDs. Voters could also produce Medicare or Social Security cards without photos. The IDs could be expired for up to six months on Election Day.

As an alternative to presenting ID, a voter could be accompanied to the polls by an adult who has known the voter at least six months, including poll workers. They would sign affidavits and show IDs with their name, address and photo.

Otherwise, voters would sign affidavits and cast provisional ballots. Elections officials would compare the signature on the affidavit to the signature they have on file.


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