With election integrity as a top concern among many voters, the House of Delegates on February 3 passed on a 51-49 vote House Bill (HB) 544. The bill creates an “opt-in” mechanism by which a voter can chose to be required to show a valid photo ID before being allowed to vote in person.
Especially in our current situation in Virginia where voting runs over several weeks, some residents have expressed apprehension that another person could report to a polling place early and fraudulently vote in his or her place. This bill seeks to prevent that problem, in that the poll workers would need to see a photo ID before giving a ballot to any person who has chosen this “opt in” system.
This “opt-in” choice will be available to people newly-registering to vote as well as to people already on the voting books.
HB 544 has an important distinction in that it only creates an “opt-in” for photo ID, and does not go as far as previous Virginia law that required a valid photo ID for all voters.
Virginia Democrats killed that earlier photo ID requirement in April 2020 when they controlled the General Assembly and disgraced Governor Ralph Northam signed it into law.
By going the “opt-in” route, the House of Delegates’ HB 544 keeps photo ID for elections voluntary. Voters who do not wish to show a photo ID at the polls still will not have to do so.
Delegates Chris Head (R-17, Roanoke/Botetourt) and Joe McNamara (R-8, Roanoke/Salem) voted for the bill that passed with a two-vote margin.
Many advocate for photo ID for voting by pointing to polls that indicate between 70-80% of the US population favor it. Moreover, a photo ID is required to board any airplane, visit the Governor’s Mansion, and complete many transactions.
Nevertheless, Salam “Sam” Rasoul (D-11, Roanoke City) voted no on the measure. After the defeat last November of scandal-plagued Chris Hurst in the New River Valley, Rasoul is now the only Democrat in the House of Delegates and the only one to vote “no” who represents a district in the western one-third of the state.
The measure now requires passage in the Democrat-controlled State Senate and a signature by Governor Youngkin to become law.