Voter ID Bills Out of Committee, Headed to House and Senate - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Voter ID Bills Out of Committee, Headed to House and Senate

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For the second General Assembly session in a row, the fight over voter identification is creating tension in Richmond. Though Democrats say ID's caused few problems in the 2012 elections, Republicans say changes must still be made to protect voter integrity in the commonwealth.

Two bills, on their way to the floors of the House and Senate, take last year's approved list of ID and whittle it down. House Bill 1337 and Senate Bill 719 would remove "a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, or paycheck that shows the name and address of the voter" from the list of acceptable polling place identification.

A different measure, carried by Harrisonburg Sen. Mark Obenshain, would go a step further, requiring photo identification at the polls. A similar house bill, championed by Albemarle Del. Rob Bell - who is also, coincidentally, Obenshain's opponent for the Republican party's attorney general nomination - died earlier this week in a House of Delegates committee. He believes such a measure can help crack down on potential forgery and voter fraud.

"The best way, if you want to make sure that the person in front of you is the person they say they are, is to have a true, no excuses photo ID," Bell said.

Though his bill was not backed by committee, he says reducing the types of acceptable ID is a step in the right direction. "[HB 1337] will simply say that you can't use some of the worst forms of ID that are currently allowed," Bell said. "The things that have no photo and no verification."

Lawmakers on the other side of the aisle, like House Democratic Caucus chair Del. Mark Sickles, don't like the idea of dramatically changing the voter ID rules for the second time in just two years. "We had very few voter ID problems during the election last year," Sickles said.

He says he thinks the bills are unnecessary, and worries further restrictions could marginalize poor or older voters. And though HB 1337 doesn't require photo ID outright (which the state would then be required to pay for), he says it comes pretty close.

"This is a photo ID bill by another name," Sickles said, "because you're eliminating everything that doesn't have an ID almost, except for the voter registration card."

With these voter ID bills now out of committee, they will all come to the House and Senate floors next week for what will likely result in a lengthy partisan debate.

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