Delegate Rob Bell to Introduce Voter Photo ID Bill
Jan 7, 2013 07:51 PM EST
A central Virginia lawmaker is pushing a bill for photo identification to be required at the polls - with no exceptions. 25th District Delegate Rob Bell (R) announced the introduction of his "Photo ID – No Exceptions" bill Monday morning.
Legislation to require verified photo IDs in order to cast a ballot was introduced to the General Assembly last year. Governor Bob McDonnell signed a voter ID law months after, expanding the forms of acceptable identification for voting, and changing the procedure when someone votes without presenting identification.
As the conversation continues into the legislative session set to convene on Wednesday, and expands to include specifically a photo ID, people are speaking out on the pros and cons.
Bell emphasizes the legislation is key to reducing voter fraud such as forging utility bills, which is currently an acceptable form of identification at the polls.
"We are very concerned that with voter fraud, you don't get to fix the election. Now you may if you're very lucky, catch the person, prosecute, and then they get a punishment but it does nothing to change the outcome of the election," he said.
Bell cites a YouTube video of a political operative discussing how to forge utility bills on Election Day and says it calls for change. "We want to make sure that we're not diluting the vote of the people who are actually eligible and registered," he said.
Charlottesville Voter Registrar Sheri Iachetta knows people who would be restricted if they were required to show a photo ID to vote.
"My mother-in-law, her driver's license expired. She doesn't drive anymore, and so she has no way to get a photo ID, and it costs money," she said.
Iachetta says details still need to be figured out so that the proposed legislation won't mean people are paying to vote. "I know people who don't drive that go to DMV to get a photo ID but it costs, so now you're going to have to pay to vote and I don't know if I necessarily agree with that," she said. "I think it's not an issue at all if it's provided to everybody at no cost."
The proposed bill has sparked a lot of controversy. "I think it's an education issue. I think right now the perception is that the photo ID is going to solve a lot of problems, but there are groups out there that feel like they are going to discriminate a lot of people," said Iachetta.
One of those groups is AARP Virginia. It says cost is not the only problem with Bell's bill – it's also the burden to get a photo ID just to vote. The AARP says requiring photo ID ends up penalizing U.S. citizens who want to vote and keeping people who have been voting all their lives from exercising their constitutional right to do so. It cites a recent study that indicates 18 percent of people over the age of 50 don't have a photo ID.
The AARP says minorities will also feel the voter suppression that comes with the legislation. Dr. M. Rick Turner with the Albemarle-Charlottesville NAACP said over the phone, "We know in Virginia, and African-American people and poor people know across the country that this is a dastardly act of voter suppression and it's typical of the practice of the Republican Party to lower the aspirations and incentive for people, all people especially people of color and poor people, and those people who can't get to polls in a regular fashion. So this is another ploy, another trick, another suppression of the Republican Party to lower the incentive to vote for Americans."
Iachetta says she believes this issue can ultimately be solved, once the logistics are laid out a little more clearly.
"I think that all those groups need to get to the table and we need to sit down and come up with a solution which I think can be done," she said.
Iachetta says she is planning to attend the General Assembly session and looks forward to discussing the logistics of the legislation with Bell.
Delegate Rob Bell Press Release
RICHMOND, VA, January 7, 2013 – Today, Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle County) announced the introduction of his 2013 Virginia General Assembly bill to require photo identification to vote in Virginia.
"Everyone who's eligible should vote on Election Day, but it's important that we only count the ballots of citizens who have the right to vote," said Bell.
Bell's "Photo ID - No Exceptions" bill will:
Require voters to present valid government issued-photo identification in order to vote
Require proof of citizenship to acquire photo identification as is currently required for identification provided by the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
Allow Virginia to provide the needed documentation to eligible voters at no cost if they can't afford it
Current law allows for voters to produce non-photo documents such as utility bills to establish identity at the polls on Election Day.
"There is a video on the Internet of a political operative discussing how to forge utility bills on Election Day. Current ID rules are not enough. We need to stop voter fraud before it happens," said Bell. "It's impossible to fix the problem after non-citizens and felons have cast ballots. What you have then is a tainted election."
Continues Bell, "Voting is how a free people govern themselves. It is the basis of self government, and it should not be debased by the votes of people who don't have the right to vote."
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