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McDonnell Orders New Voter ID Cards for All Registered Virginia Voters

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Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed new polling place identification requirements into law Friday and, along with it, ordered the State Board of Elections to send new voter ID cards to every registered Virginia voter.

The requirements were updated by the Republican General Assembly this year and decried by Democrats and minorities as a voter suppression effort. The legislation requires voters to present valid identification at the polls.

McDonnell and other supporters said it was a way to crack down on election fraud.

“Every qualified citizen has the right to cast one vote. Not two votes; not zero votes,” McDonnell said in singing two bills passed this winter that change procedures for handling voters who show up at the polls without accepted identification.

The new law changes voter identification requirements that have been on the books for 12 years. It expands the list of permissible forms that can be used as identification, and it forces people who have no ID to cast provisional ballots. They are counted only if a voter later brings local election officials a valid identification.

In the past, voters without identification were allowed to sign affidavits that they are who they claim to be and given a regular ballot. 

McDonnell said his directive to supply every registered voter a new ID card -- at a cost of about $1.3 million -- by this fall's election is a concession to opponents' contentions that some voters have no identification.

“On Election Day this year, every Virginia voter will have at least one valid ID,” McDonnell said.

Besides voter registration cards, other acceptable forms of polling place ID include Social Security cards, driver's licenses, a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement or government check, a paycheck showing the voter's name and home address, or a valid Virginia college student ID card.

Virginia does not require photo identification, nor will the new law.

The GOP-backed voter ID legislation was one of several passionate partisan flash points in a sometimes bitter 2012 General Assembly, particularly in the 40-member Senate where Democrats and Republicans each hold 20 seats. Republicans act as a Senate majority by virtue of Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling's tie-breaking vote.

It was Bolling's decisive vote that broke a party-line deadlock that advanced the measure to final passage this year.

Critics of the bill such as Sen. Henry Marsh, D-Richmond and a lawyer who was involved in the legal struggle to desegregate public schools 50 years ago, said the bill would unduly burden the poor, disabled, elderly, students and minorities.

He and others compared it to Jim Crow-era efforts to dissuade black voters in the South, and questioned its introduction just before presidential and senatorial elections in a battleground state.

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