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Opponents demand gov. veto controversial voter id bills

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Posted at 6:53 PM, Mar 15, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-15 19:03:15-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Sponsors and supporters of Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 63 believe the bills sitting on Governor Bob McDonnell’s desk are about protecting against voter fraud.

But opponents think the changes will make it harder for some Virginians to vote on Election Day.

People from Hampton Roads, Richmond and Northern Virginia signed nearly 7,000 petitions in an effort to send McDonnell a clear message.

Jay Johnson said 6,740 petitions represent a lot of unhappy people. “We should be getting people to vote. Not keeping people from voting.”

Protesters  like Johnson want McDonnell to veto so called voter suppression bills.

“I’m tired of proving who I am," said Johnson. "It is insulting. Stand up and be a man and veto this. Stand up and represent the people who voted for you to be governor.”

The bills passed by the General Assembly require voters to show identification and also allow leaders to choose which provisional ballots count.

The group Virginia New Majority said if the governor signs the bills into law it will prevent certain groups from voting.

“That is the heart at democracy," said Tran Nguyen. "That is at the heart at what it means to be an American and we should not be taking that right away.”

Nguyen said groups less likely to have forms of identification will suffer. She said it sends a message that lawmakers think immigrants, minorities, low-income folks and seniors votes are not important.

However, State Senator John Watkins, a Republican from Chesterfield who favors the legislation, said the bills make sense and could protect against voter fraud.

“If you are driving, you have to have a driver’s license," said Watkins. "If you are a Medicare recipient, you need a Medicare card. Maybe no one has an id everywhere they need one or every time they need one, but it shouldn’t  labeled an imposition to identify yourself.”

Jay Johnson who traveled from Hampton to the State Capitol for the protest said tighter restrictions at the polls cause more harm than good.

“Agitated, aggravated and angry” Johnson said.  “This is about getting fewer and fewer people to vote because then the power is in the hands of the people now.”

A spokesman for Governor McDonnell said the he is reviewing Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 63 and will make a decision to sign, amend or veto the legislation in the coming weeks.