Virginia will no longer require voters to present a photo ID in order to cast a ballot, Governor Ralph Northam announced Sunday as he signed several pieces of voter access legislation.
“Voting is a fundamental right, and these new laws strengthen our democracy by making it easier to cast a ballot, not harder,” Northam, a Democrat, said Sunday in a statement. “No matter who you are or where you live in Virginia, your voice deserves to be heard. I’m proud to sign these bills into law.”
“Voter ID laws disenfranchise individuals who may not have access to photo identification, and disproportionately impact low-income individuals, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities,” the governor’s statement said.
The governor also signed legislation to make Election Day a state holiday, repealing and replacing Lee-Jackson Day, which honored Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Additionally, Virginia will implement automatic voter registration for people who access services at the DMV and expand polling station hours as well as early and absentee voting. Polling stations will be open until 8 p.m. instead of 7 p.m. Voters will be able to vote up to 45 days before to an election without providing the state with an approved excuse.
Democrats in the legislature took aim at Republicans as they sent the bills to the governor’s desk, criticizing their colleagues across the aisle for making it harder for voters to cast a ballot.
“The first thing Republicans do when they take over state legislatures is they make it harder for people to vote. That’s how they held onto their majorities,” Delegate Marcus Simon, who represents Fairfax, told The Virginia Mercury. “As the first Southern state to flip a majority from Republican to Democrat in this era, I think it’s appropriate that the first thing we did is make voting easier.”
Republicans, however, point to instances of voter fraud in Virginia and argue that voter ID laws protect against such abuses.
In 2012, Patrick Moran, the son of former Democratic Representative Jim Moran, resigned from his father’s reelection campaign after an undercover video showed him discussing a plot to commit voter fraud on behalf of 100 voters.
“The bill does nothing to prevent fraud, but instead gives someone who casts a fraudulent ballot priority over the actual voter,” Virginia House Republicans said in a statement in February, when the bill passed the chamber.
“This bill does not outline a clear mechanism to ensure one person, one ballot,” said Republican Delegate Chris Head, who represents Roanoke. “Imagine someone shows up at your voting precinct and signs the affidavit claiming to be you. What happens when you legitimately show up later that day with your photo ID? Under this bill the fraudulent vote would be counted.”