Senator- Voting Rights Bill contains erroneous clause, ‘A mistake’

Posted at 1:08 AM, Jan 10, 2012
and last updated 2012-01-11 08:55:45-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – The first bill prefiled in the Senate for the 2012 General Assembly session, SB 1, calls for new voter identification requirements that would ‘remove the Commonwealth of Virginia voter registration card’ from a list of forms of identification that can be used at the polls.

The bill’s sponsor, Senator Steve Martin, R-Chesterfield, told CBS 6 by phone on Tuesday that that particular clause of the bill was “a mistake, and was not supposed to be there.”

Martin says the error will be “amended” before the bill is presented in committee.

Those are changes that need to be made according to Kent Willis, the executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, who calls the the original and uncorrected version of the bill a clear violation of voter rights.

“Taking away the voter information card, it’s the one card that every voter receives,” said Willis. “And most analysts agree that any kind of restrictions you impose on ID disproportionately affect the elderly, low-income residents and racial minorities.”

Willis also called the idea of voter fraud “a myth,” explaining that the crime is “difficult to do and a lot of trouble to accomplish.”

But Martin says the explicit purpose of the bill *is to prevent voter fraud, just not by eliminating the voter information card.

Instead, Martin would like to scrap the provision in Virginia law that allows a voter who shows up to the poll without an ID to sign a sworn statement that ‘he is the named registered voter he claims to be.’

Those individuals would have to cast a provisional ballot instead.

“It’s just foolishness not to require voter ID,” declared Martin. “And it’s impossible to show a voter fraud history- how would you catch the perpetrator?”

A phone call placed to the State Board of Elections on Tuesday confirmed that Virginia law does allow an individual to ‘swear’ to his or her identity, and voting officials do not follow-up from there.

“Yes, that is the current law,” said Justin Riemer, spokesperson for the SBE. “You are allowed to cast a regular ballot if you are who you say you are.”

Willis says it’s almost illogical for someone to try and commit voter fraud.

“If you’re caught, it’s a felony and you can’t vote for the rest of your life,” observed Willis. “So how many people are going to commit voter fraud when the consequence is felony, which could result in jail time, a hefty fine, and losing the right to vote for the rest of your life?”

Martin disagrees, asserting that the “integrity of the electoral process” is at-stake.

The 2012 session begins on Wednesday, with the House and Senate convening at noon.