Governor Bob McDonnell signed today legislation that the General Assembly sent him that will expand the forms of acceptable identification for voting, and change the procedure when someone votes without presenting identification, requiring them to vote provisionally and later present an approved ID to their local registrar through email, fax, mail, or hand delivery. Governor McDonnell also issued an executive order today directing the State Board of Elections to take a number of steps to implement this legislation. Among other things, the executive order directs the State Board of Elections to send every Virginia voter a voter card, a valid form of ID under state law, before Election Day, so that every registered Virginia voter has a valid ID to present at the polls.
Virginia's Voter ID law has been in place since 2000. This legislation only deals with individuals who do not bring an approved form of ID with them to the polls when voting.
"Open and secure elections are the cornerstone of a free democracy and are essential for citizens to have faith in their government," McDonnell said. "Every qualified citizen has the right to cast one vote. Not two votes; not zero votes. It is our duty as a democracy to ensure that is always the case. For a dozen years, Virginia has already required voters to bring identification to the polls. This legislation does two things. It increases the forms of identification that can be used for purpose of voting, while helping to further prevent voter fraud and ensuring Virginians that they can have faith that votes have not been fraudulently cast."
The executive order issued by the governor directs the State Board of Elections to take a number of steps regarding implementation of this legislation. First, the State Board of Elections will issue voter cards to every Virginia voter between now and Election Day. Second, the State Board of Elections will coordinate a public education campaign to help raise awareness about the need to bring an approved ID to the polling place on Election Day, and the process for obtaining a free voter card if someone does not have a form of ID. Third, the State Board of Elections will make clear that localities may contact voters who vote provisionally without an ID about the need to provide ID prior to noon on Friday after the election. Lastly, the State Board of Elections will collect data regarding provisional ballots cast and the number of voters who vote without an ID.
"The additional steps my administration will take to implement this legislation will ensure that no voter is overly burdened by the provisions included in this legislation," Governor McDonnell continued. "Some have argued that there are voters who do not have any form of ID to bring to the polls. For that reason, we will be sending every voter in Virginia a free voter card between now and Election Day to ensure they have at least one form of ID to bring with them to the polls. On Election Day this year, every Virginia voter will have at least one valid ID."
On April 9, 2012, the governor submitted a number of proposed amendments to the General Assembly to improve the legislation, and most were approved. One set of amendments would have created a system for simple signature comparison that would have allowed someone's vote to be cast without any follow up action required on the part of the voter; however, the General Assembly regrettably did not accept this set of amendments.
"While I think the legislation would have been improved with the signature comparison provision that would have virtually eliminated the need for nearly anyone to have to return with an ID later in the week, the legislation returned to me, coupled with the above additional steps to be implemented by executive order, is an important step in securing our elections and preventing any possible fraud," Governor McDonnell remarked. "I was pleased that the General Assembly approved my remaining amendments, particularly my proposal to extend the time a voter has to transmit or present their ID after Election Day until Friday at noon after the election."
Virginia first implemented a voter identification requirement in 2000. Virginia has never required, nor does this legislation require, photo identification to vote.
Under this legislation and existing law, the following are acceptable forms of ID for voting:
Virginia voter registration card
Social Security card
Valid Virginia driver's license
Any other identification card issued by an agency of the Commonwealth, one of its political subdivisions, or the United States
Any valid student identification card issued by a Virginia institution of higher education
A valid identification card issued by an employer containing a photograph of the voter
A copy of a current utility bill
A copy of a bank statement
A government check
A paycheck that shows the name and address of the voter.
Virginia's current voter ID law commands broad compliance. While comprehensive statewide statistics are not available, a survey of localities from the last presidential and gubernatorial elections in 2008 and 2009 indicate a compliance rate of well over 99%. Only a handful of voters per precinct, on average, do not bring an approved ID document. The intensive voter education initiatives contained in this Executive Order will increase compliance and continue Virginia's tradition of honest elections. The Governor strongly encourages all voters to register and vote in the important elections this year.