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Va., Md. going in opposite directions on voting

Sunday - 2/17/2013, 1:35pm  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Maryland and Virginia seem to be headed in opposite directions on their rules for voting.

Virginia's General Assembly is moving ahead with a proposal that will require a photo ID to vote.

That is just the opposite of what Maryland's Gov. Martin O'Malley is proposing. He wants legislation to allow same-day registration like Washington, D.C. and more early voting days.

Claire Gastananaga of the American Civil Liberties Union says what is being proposed in Virginia is a waste of money after the revisions made last year.

"There's not a shred of evidence that anyone has misrepresented themselves in the polls and voted for someone else" she says.

But Virginia state Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), who is sponsoring the bill (SB-1256) calls it important for citizen confidence in the election process. He points to an incident during the 2012 election where a Republican contractor tossed voter registration forms into a dumpster in Harrisonburg.

But Gastananga notes that a number of changes were made last year tightening up what can be used for identification at the polls and that the state spent $2 million dollars to make sure the public was aware of it.

Obenshain's bill would also require the state to provide a photo ID to any voter who requests it and free of charge to avoid the appearance of charging a fee for the right to vote.

Ten states have passed versions of a photo ID requirement. Gastanaga says most of them are being challenged in court.

The Virginia General Assembly has also passed another bill (HB 1337) that would narrow down which types of identification could be used by voters and require that document to have a photo and address of the voter.

College students who attend school in the state are eligible to vote in Virginia but they have noted that their college IDs often do not include their addresses.

Those changes would take effect immediately so they could have an impact on this year's race for Governor.

The other bill would not take affect until the 2014 election.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has not indicated yet if he will sign either of the bills.

(Copyright 2009 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)