Republican-backed bills aimed at tightening voting rules killed by Virginia Democrats

Several Republican-backed bills that would have tightened rules around voting in Virginia were killed Tuesday by a committee led by Democrats in the state Senate.

While Republicans have a majority in the House of Delegates, Virginia’s Senate is controlled by Democrats who argued that Republicans were trying to restrict voting rights.

Among the pieces of legislation voted down in the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee was an effort to reinstate a requirement that voters show a photo ID before casting a ballot.

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

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.

Earlier in the legislative session, Republican state Sen. Mark Obenshain claimed that reinstating a voter ID law would promote confidence in the integrity of the state’s elections system.

“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.”

Other Republican-backed bills killed in the Senate committee Tuesday would have banned ballot drop boxes, repealed same-day voter registration legislation and limited in-person early voting to no more than two weeks before an election. Currently, voters have 45 days to cast a ballot early.

“Two weeks is plenty for anyone to vote,” argued Republican Sen. Mark Peake.

Following the committee meeting, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw issued a statement saying that killing the bills “signifies Senate Democrats’ resolve to a fair and free democracy.”

Nick Iannelli

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

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