RICHMOND—Today, legislation patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls passed the House on a 65-34 vote, having previously passed the Senate 21-20, with Lieutenant Governor Bolling casting the tiebreaking vote.
"Today's victory is a long time coming," said Obenshain, who first introduced Photo ID legislation in 2005. "If we believe that our system of free and fair elections is important, then we need the process to be secure – and just importantly, we need to instill confidence in the results."
"We have to be vigilant in order to prevent an erosion of the public confidence in the election process," said Obenshain. "We saw such erosions after the razor-thin margins of the 2000 election, and doubts have surfaced among partisans on both sides of the aisle in every presidential election since. This lack of confidence is unhealthy, and it's important that we take reasonable steps to provide the assurance that our elections are indeed free and fair."
In 2005, the bipartisan Carter-Baker Commission Report recommended that states adopt photo ID laws and many have – with the Democrat-controlled Rhode Island legislature joining the list in 2011. The Carter-Baker Commission concluded that "[t]he electoral system cannot inspire public confidence if no safeguards exist to deter or detect fraud or to confirm the identity of voters. Photo IDs currently are needed to board a plane, enter federal buildings, and cash a check. Voting is equally important."
"SB 1256 will ensure that every legal vote counts and that those votes are not diluted by fraudulent votes. More importantly, this will buttress voter confidence in the integrity of our election process. This approach is reasonable, fair, cost-effective, and in line with the recommendations of the bipartisan Carter-Baker Commission," said Obenshain, noting that courts have upheld similar requirements in other states.
Obenshain's bill requires every voter to show photo identification when casting a ballot. Acceptable forms of photo identification include a driver's license, passport, an employee or Virginia college student ID card (with a photo), or any other government-issued photo identification card, and it provides for the free provision of voter registration cards bearing a photo through registrar's offices. "Not everyone has a photo ID, but under this bill, anyone can obtain one easily and free of charge," said Obenshain.
"Here in Virginia, we've taken voter confidence seriously, phasing out electronic balloting, streamlining overseas absentee balloting, and working to create greater uniformity in election deadlines. Now we're addressing legitimate concerns about the lack of safeguards at the polls themselves," Obenshain added.
"Last year, we saw just how easy voter fraud can be when a congressional campaign official was caught on tape talking about ways to cast fraudulent ballots," said Obenshain. "Photo ID is a common sense way to ensure that every legitimate vote counts, and that no one's vote is diluted by voter fraud."
"Free and fair elections are one of the defining features of our system of government, and it's worth the effort to keep them that way, and to give voters confidence in our election process," Obenshain concluded.
Vote tallies for SB 1256 are available at http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?ses=131&typ=bil&val=sb1256
Mark Obenshain has served in the Senate of Virginia since 2004, and is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Attorney General of Virginia.