Republicans in Virginia and elsewhere have advocated “voter integrity” bills that would impose stricter ID standards on voters. No fewer than 17 of them have been proposed in Richmond this General Assembly session.
At a rally on Capitol Square last week, former NAACP director Benjamin Chavis accused Republicans of trying to “lynch democracy.” Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones (D) said the GOP push was all because “there’s a brother in the White House.”
Republican lawmakers contend that the measures are needed to combat voter fraud and ensure the integrity of the voting system. They note that Virginia’s notorious discrimination at the polls was perpetrated in an era when Democrats had a monopoly on political power. They also point out that Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) has pushed to extend voting rights to felons who have served their sentences.
“I broaden the kind of ID,” said Sen. Stephen H. Martin (R-Chesterfield). “These puzzling arguments that they’ve been bringing in front of me — I will tell you that one lady came into committee and actually said . . . that we’re targeting blacks because they’re more likely to forget [their identification]. I didn’t even respond.
A bill that passed in the Senate on Thursday would require a five-day waiting period before a newly registered voter can receive an absentee ballot. Sen. Chap Petersen
(D-Fairfax) mocked the idea because of Republican opposition to waiting periods for gun purchases
. The bill’s patron, Sen. Mark D. Obenshain
(R-Harrisonburg), countered that he’d gladly trade the waiting period for an instant federal check on voters
. It passed 21 to 20, with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) casting a tiebreaking vote.