Justice Department approves Virginia voter ID law

The Justice Department has approved Virginia’s Voter ID law, which was necessary because Virginia is one of the states covered by the Voting Rights Act, mandating federal approval for changes to electoral procedures. NBC News notes Virginia’s voter ID requirements are considerably less stringent than the laws DOJ has chosen to contest:

Unlike states with the strictest photo ID requirement, Virginia will allow voters to cast a ballot if they present a student ID card issued by a state college or university as well as documents that carry no photo, including a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, or paycheck showing the voter’s name and address. 

The state already honors Virginia voter registration cards that have no photo, as well as more traditional forms of identification, including a driver’s license or other government ID as well as an employee photo identification card.

Virginia’s new law also tightens the procedure for casting provisional ballots without proper identification, although final confirmation of identity for these ballots is still easier than in other states, because it can be done by fax, email, or even snail mail – a method that would seem risky, given that the provisional voter must submit acceptable identification documents within three days.

On the instructions of Governor Bob McDonnell, Virginia is also taking the extraordinary step of sending a voter identification card to every currently registered voter.  Presumably Virginia is very comfortable with the integrity of its current voting registration.

Actually, the only practical effect of the new law appears to be demanding more than a sworn affidavit from provisional voters, and this was countered with increasing the variety of acceptable documents voters could present, coupled with the governor’s order to send ID cards to every registered voter.  Thus, the only people who could conceivably be “suppressed” or “disenfranchised” in Virginia would be those who forget to bring their state-issued ID card, or one of the dozen or so acceptable substitutes – several of which do not include photographs – when they vote, and fail to follow up by emailing or faxing documentation three days after casting a provisional ballot.  It doesn’t sound as if there was much in Virginia’s law that DOJ could conceivably have protested.