With Republicans controlling the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature, Virginia Democrats are saying they don’t have the votes to stop a wave of far-right legislation.
Virginia Republicans have so far pushed through a bill requiring a medically unnecessary, invasive sonogram before a woman exercises her constitutional right to end a pregnancy happening in her own body. The state Senate turned back a bill that would have banned abortions after the point where tests can reveal severe defects, but a bill that would end all abortions and make popular forms of birth control illegal continues wending its way through the House.
And as we’ve seen in states from Tennessee to Wisconsin, Virginia’s newly empowered Republican legislators want to make voting harder. The Virginia House has passed one bill already that sets up a new rigamarole for anyone who can’t show ID. A second, stricter bill requires voters to show photo ID at the polls and mandates that new voters prove their citizenship – which you have not had to do before in order to vote in Virginia and which many thousands of Virginians may find hard to do.
The ACLU calls the bills “dumb and dumber.”
If Virginia truly provided free IDs for any and all state citizens who need it in order to vote, it would cost the state millions of dollars. Missouri, which passed a similar law, estimated its costs at $6 million for the first year and $4 million each subsequent year. Indiana spent $12.2 million over four years implementing its voter ID law. Virginia has many more voters than either of those states and would therefore have even higher costs.
More usually branding themselves as fiscal conservatives, Virginia Republicans stand to gain politically from costing the state money on this one. Judging from national experience, the ACLU calculates that at 600,000 (pdf), largely from traditional Democratic constituencies, and nearly twice the margin in the last governor’s race.
(Image: A voting rights rally last month/VCU Capital News Service/Flickr)