Only a day after Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe’s veto of a strict voter ID law, Virginia’s Republican Governor Bob McDonnell signed into law Tuesday the second major change to voting requirements in just over a year.
The bill shrinks the list of acceptable forms of identification a voter can use to cast a ballot starting in 2014. The law eliminates the use of a utility bill, pay stub, bank statement, government check or Social Security card as acceptable identification, leaving only drivers licenses, voter ID cards, student IDs, and concealed handgun permits.
Republicans insist the measure will help prevent voter fraud and improve the integrity of election, although according to an exhaustive study from News 21, there has been only one case of voter fraud in Virginia that would have been prevented by an ID requirement since 2000.
Democrats have blasted the legislation as voter suppression, comparing it to Jim Crow-era tactics designed to stop minorities from voting. A recent study found that minority youth voters were dis-proportionally impacted by voter ID laws in the 2012 election.
The new law provides for a free valid ID with the bearer’s photo to any registered voter who lacks one, although in some cases elligible voters lack the documents needed to receive that card in the first place, which can be costly to obtain.
As he signed the legislation, McDonnell directed the State Board of Elections to start a public education program to inform voters of the new requirements, the second costly voter reeducation campaign in as many years.
The new law will be subject to approval from the Department of Justice since Virginia is covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The future of Section 5 hangs in the balance as the Supreme Court prepares a ruling on its constitutionality, but even if it is overturned, civil rights groups would likely challenge the new ID law in courts.