Voter ID rule in effect

By Alex Bridges

The new voter ID rule shouldn’t keep anyone out of the electoral process, state and local elections officials say.

Beginning Tuesday, registered voters in Virginia must provide identification that contains their photograph when they go to the polls. But the Department of Elections allows voters to provide any one of nearly a dozen forms of identification to cast a ballot. Should they not have any of the forms, voters can apply at their local registrar’s office for a free, state-issued ID card.

State Commissioner of Elections Edgardo Cortes pointed out the free card can help voters in a pinch. Cortes said it took 5-7 business days to process an application for voter cards that the department produces in-house.

Local registrars say they don’t expect the new regulations to put an extra burden on their offices. Shenandoah County Voter Registrar Lisa McDonald said Monday her office is prepared.

“I don’t think the voter ID is going to be a problem,” McDonald said.

Warren County Voter Registrar Carol Tobin said her office also has the equipment ready. But the turnout of applicants seeking IDs remains uncertain.

“It’s unpredictable,” Tobin said. “We don’t anticipate [a lot of business] but you never for sure until the time arrives.”

Many voters keep one or more of the valid forms of identification, Tobin said.

Acceptable forms of identification include:

  • Valid Virginia Driver’s License or Identification Card
  • Valid Virginia DMV issued Veteran’s ID card
  • Valid United States Passport
  • Valid Employee photo identification card
  • Other government-issued photo identification cards (must be issued by US Government, the Commonwealth of Virginia, or a political subdivision of the Commonwealth
  • Valid college or university student photo identification card (must be from an institution of higher education located in Virginia)
  • Employee identification card containing a photograph of the voter and issued by an employer of the voter in the ordinary course of the employer’s business
  • or a Virginia Voter Photo ID Card obtained through any local general registrar’s office

The state agency provided equipment for the registrars’ offices that allows them to take photographs of the applicants. Applicants also must sign an electronic signature pad. The local offices send the photographs and the corresponding voter information to the state. The department verifies the information and then mails the new photo ID card to the applicant.

During the system’s testing phase, it took about a week to two weeks for the voter to receive the ID card.

“It was fairly simple,” McDonald said.

McDonald noted that even with her small staff of herself and two, part-time workers, issuing voter ID cards shouldn’t pose a problem.

If a person discovers about a month before the election that he or she doesn’t have one of the acceptable forms of identification, the registrar’s office can issue a temporary ID that remains valid for up to 30 days, McDonald said.

Even if a voter lacks any of these forms of identification at the polls and does not have a permanent or temporary photo ID card as issued by the state, a person can cast a provisional ballot. The voter then has until the Friday following the election to provide to the registrar’s office proof of his or her identity.

For now, voters can still cast ballots if their form of identification has expired. But last month State Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, challenged the elections agency board’s decision to include as acceptable forms of identification those that had expired. Obenshain, who chairs the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, asked the board to revisit the inclusion.

The State Board of Elections plans to reconsider the matter and to seek public comment before making any decision.

Contact registrars’ offices in Shenandoah County at 459-6195, in Warren County at 635-4327 or in Frederick County at 665-5660. Visit the county websites and the registrars’ offices or http://tiny.cc/nreaix for more information about voting requirements.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com