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Voters In Virginia May No Longer Need To Carry Photo IDs

Voters in Virginia may no longer have to carry a photo ID with them when they go to the polls.

On Tuesday, the Virginia state Senate voted 21-19 to pass a bill from Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) that would repeal current voter ID requirements.

If enacted, voters in Virginia could present any government document containing their name and address — such as a copy of a current utility bill, government check or a paycheck — to a polling officer. In 2012, the then Republican-controlled state legislature passed a bill that requires Virginians to show a photo ID, such as a driver’s license or a U.S. passport, when they went to vote. Virginians without a photo ID are given a provisional ballot, which requires extra steps in order to be counted.

Claire Gastañaga, the executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, believes the bill will create a voting system in the Commonwealth that is more equitable, especially for the homeless and those who live in rural areas.

“We ought to have a system that makes it easy for everyone to vote, and treats every voter the same and doesn’t privilege some voters over others and doesn’t put barriers in the way of people voting,” Gastañaga said.

Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), a patron of the bill, says it will help voters of all ages.

“It means millennials without a driver’s license can have an easier time voting, it means that seniors who don’t have a driver’s license anymore will have an easier time voting, it just removes a potential barrier,” Ebbin said. “Ninety-five percent-plus of people do have their ID handy with them. And for those other five percent, let’s make it easier, not harder.”

The vote on the new ID law was split down party lines. Supporters of the current law say it helps prevent voter fraud and is not discriminatory.

“There’s nothing more sacred in our country than the fair elections that we’ve talked about … we cannot put that at risk,” said Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach).

A similar bill in the House cleared a subcommittee on Tuesday.