The proposed voter suppression bills aim to correct a problem that doesn’t exist. Patrons of the bills claim that they will prevent "voter fraud" in Virginia, yet they haven’t put forward any evidence that voter fraud is actually a problem in our state.
In addition, the law imposes numerous new requirements on local election officials; such as providing and processing provisional ballots and conducting trainings on the new regulations without specifying where funding for these mandates would be attained.
Virginia will face even more budget cuts that will affect jobs and families for the sake of laws that are not needed in the first place. We should be investing in budgets for education, public works, and jobs instead of spending money on more excessive bureaucracy.
There are huge problems with the proposed voter ID bills. Bill patrons have stated these measures are designed to combat voter fraud, but there is no evidence of wide-spread voter fraud in the Commonwealth.
These bills will disproportionately affect citizens without easy access to a photo ID: seniors, minority, young, and low-income Virginians. Should these bills pass, Virginia taxpayers will end up footing a large bill to provide free photo IDs and educate voters as to the new requirements.
That's not the end of the cost of these bills. The proposed voter suppression bills would require those without ID to be issued provisional ballots. Administering and adjudicating this influx of provisional ballots will cost localities thousands of dollars per election. Not only that, in certain circumstances, these ballots wouldn’t even be counted.
There is currently no indication of how these laws will be funded. Our state budget is already stretched to the maximum and finding the dollars to pay for trainings, provisional ballots, and free IDs mean more cuts to vital programs like health care and education or passing the buck along to localities. Our state’s budget cannot afford to be stretched any farther, especially for legislation that creates headaches rather than benefits by making it harder for our citizens to vote.
The 1965 Voting Rights Act that Dr. King and millions of other civil rights activists worked hard to enact was designed to prevent this kind of voter suppression. The bills in our state legislature threaten to take us back to an era of Jim Crow when the poll tax and literacy test were used to establish and maintain legal segregation. Present day efforts to suppress the vote are likewise designed to limit the impact that the elderly, minorities, low income people, and other underserved populations can have on our political system.
I urge Governor McDonnell and our lawmakers to oppose these bills. They will only make it harder for citizens to vote and put up barriers to our full participation in our democracy.