Great news: Governor McDonnell has signed my Photo ID bill into law!
Critics said it couldn't get through a divided Senate. Skeptics predicted that the Governor would veto it. But today, Virginia joins the growing ranks of states requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls.
Today's victory is a long time coming; I first introduced Photo ID legislation back in 2005. But it's been worth the effort: if we believe that our system of free and fair elections is important, then we need the process to be secure—and just as importantly, we need to instill confidence in the results, taking reasonable steps to provide the assurance that our elections are indeed free and fair.
In 2005, the bipartisan Carter-Baker Commission recommended that states adopt Photo ID laws, and many have—red and blue states alike. As former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker wrote, "The 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."
Under the new law, voters will be required to show photo identification when casting a ballot, and anyone lacking ID can obtain one free of charge at their registrar's office. Those who forget their ID when they go to the polls may cast a provisional ballot, which will be counted if they provide ID in the days following the election. These changes will take effect in time for the 2014 elections.
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; clearly, a Photo ID requirement is long past due. After all, 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 shore up confidence in the electoral process.
I am grateful to each and every one of you who spoke out on this issue and helped bring about today's bill signing. This is your victory. Working together, we can accomplish great things here in the Commonwealth!