Debate over photo ID at the polls returns to Virginia

Republicans in Virginia’s General Assembly are hoping to tighten some of the rules around voting after gaining seats in the November election, but they are already facing challenges as they try to sway Democrats to their side.

Republican state Sen. Mark Obenshain unsuccessfully pushed for legislation Tuesday that would have required voters to show a photo ID at the polls.

“There are people out there who believe that there are big gaping holes in our system,” Obenshain said. “This just is a common-sense way to address those concerns.”

Obenshain clarified that he wasn’t “trying to go back and suggest that there’s epidemic fraud.”

The bill failed on a party-line vote in the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed.

A photo ID rule was eliminated in 2020 by Democrats who controlled the House, Senate and the governor’s office at the time.

Under current law, voters must show an acceptable form of ID or sign an affidavit stating that they are who they claim to be. Anyone who lies on the affidavit is subject to a felony.

“Voters arriving at the polls without an acceptable form of ID will be required to either sign an ID Confirmation Statement or vote a provisional ballot,” according to the Virginia Department of Elections. “If a voter votes a provisional ballot, they will have until noon on the Friday following the election to deliver a copy of identification to their locality’s electoral board or sign an ID Confirmation Statement in order for their provisional ballot to be counted.”

Acceptable forms of ID can include bank statements, paychecks or utility bills.

Other Republican-led efforts in the current legislative session would do away with ballot drop boxes and limit in-person early voting to no more than two weeks before an election. Currently, voters have 45 days to cast a ballot early.

It will be difficult for Republicans to pass voting legislation in the Democratically controlled Senate. They will have a much better chance in the House of Delegates, which is now operating under a GOP majority.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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