By Hope R. Amezquita, ACLU of Virginia Staff Attorney & Legislative Counsel
Starting July 1, 2014 you’ll need a photo ID to vote. What photo IDs are acceptable? How can you get one for free? We’ll be answering these and other voting rights questions tomorrow at noon during our weekly #libertychatVA on Twitter. Tell your friends and tweet us your questions!
Under the new law, the State Board of Elections (SBE) must create a process to ensure that voters without an approved photo ID can get one for free, and the proposed process is posted on the SBE’s website for public comment. Click here to let the SBE know that the photo ID law needs to made available without unnecessary burdens for voters (click here to find the text of the proposed regulation).
Why does this matter? Because voters, especially those without transportation and with disabilities, may have trouble getting to the registrar’s office to sign up for a free photo ID, which means they’ll lose their fundamental right to vote. As of now, we’re hearing that the process will allow election workers to go out into the community and sign people up. That’s great in theory, but as of now it won’t be required. Most likely, voters will have to travel to the registrar’s office to sign up during traditional business days and hours, which limits the ability for folks with 9-5 jobs to access their free ID. Worse, some local registrars are only open part-time!
This scheme doesn’t take into consideration that a lot of voters’ lives don’t accommodate “traditional” business hours. Many people need evenings and weekends to do things that their non-traditional schedules don’t permit. Because Virginia law doesn’t protect people who miss work to vote, workers who need to travel to a registrar to get a free ID to vote are also not protected. This law places more barriers to the ballot box.
We want election officials to make sure that no one is disenfranchised as result of this unnecessary law. Tell the SBE and local registrars that getting a free photo ID should be easy and that no registered voter should be left out simply because they can’t get to the registrar’s office.