Implementation of the new Virginia Voter ID requirement, intentionally or unintentionally, has created a new poll tax. Unlike other forms produced by the state, this ID can only be obtained at the jurisdiction’s Registrar’s office(s). And there is an unnecessary threat of a felony penalty on the draft application.
The Virginia code change that implemented the new picture ID requirement was specified in SB 1256 during the 2013 General Assembly session. There is not a section in the code that specifies the statement that is on the draft application or a penalty for being guilty of possessing two photo identification cards. There is a section in the code with a statement about ID cards obtained at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). But as of this moment, the DMV will NOT issue these identification cards.
I swear/affirm, under federal penalty for making willfully false material statements or entries, that the information provided on this form is true, and that I do not have any acceptable form of identification required to vote in-person. I do not have:
An unexpired Virginia Driver’s license or DMV issued photo identification card or United States passport or Other government issued photo identification or College or university student photo identification card (issuer must be institution of higher education located in Virginia) or Employee photo dentification
The oath may have a chilling effect on persons who are unsure just what this statement means. What if the person has been arrested for traffic violations and the driver’s license has been confiscated? Does the voter have an ID that prevents issuance of a Voter ID? Or is that voter not allowed to have the Voter ID even though they may not reacquire their driver’s license prior to the election depending upon their court case? What about persons who are forgetful due to age or have had their rights restored following a felony conviction and have lost one of these forms of ID? Do they go away to return another day even though there is little hope they may find the lost ID? Though there are not any Voter ID police yet, there are circumstances where a person may not recall if they have an ID already or have misplaced and later discover it, or even subsequently obtained an ID, then through a routine or not-so-routine search be discovered with the two. What then? It’s a potential felony (after all they took the unnecessary oath on the application so they may have perjured). If it is a police stop, is there an obligation to arrest? Or do we now allow law enforcement to make prosecutorial decisions on felonies? There are more issues.
Here’s a dirty little secret. The reason that this statement is on the application is that Virginia is not treating all voters equally. It costs a lot of money to implement this program (estimated at a quarter million dollars a year for years ahead) and if everyone wants to have one of these, the cost explodes; a budget buster.
Next, the language on the application is not clear. While the intent may be that the persons are verifying that they are not in possession of an unexpired form of any of those listed, the literal interpretation can be that the driver’s license must be unexpired, it is not clear that any of the others must be unexpired. But here’s the clincher in this regard: why does it matter that any of these are expired when the new Virginia photo Voter ID has no expiration date (or address, or precinct, or anything useful like an address so at least it can be used to cash a check or serve some other purpose). And why are college students attending college outside Virginia treated differently than in-state students? But these are just some administrative issues that can inadvertently result in a felony. There is such an oath on the voter registration form, but does not contain the requirement to swear to something the applicant may not really know or understand.
This raises another issue. While the General Assembly believes we can afford the new equipment that will be installed in the offices of Registrars, there’s no money budgeted to upgrade the computer equipment at DMV; some of it over a decade old. Virginia DMV is currently using Windows XP. Enough said.
This is just a sampling of the practical issues with the new voter photo ID requirement. While there is a section in the code that states the DMV may be required to assist providing these IDs, that is not the current plan. There are multiple DMV offices in many jurisdictions. Most jurisdictions only have one Registrar’s office. There is no requirement to go to the Registrar’s office to register to vote. Most people will not have a clue where that office is. Then when voters find it, they may not be confident that they can get the ID without causing themselves problems and turn away. This is a hidden tax on those affected.
The Registrars’ offices are not designed for this requirement. Now space that may not exist must be set aside for a function that even proponents of the photo ID card requirement will argue affects only a very few voters. What will the hours be? Will everyone in the office be qualified to produce the IDs or do voters have to count on luck and the alignment of the stars to show up on the day and at the time when an ID can be issued?
But ask Senator Lynnwood Lewis if a very few voters may matter.