By Edith Holmes Snyder
Voting in this City and across Virginia will be harder this November. For the first time, citizens must show photo identification to have their votes are counted.
Virginia’s 2013 statute requiring a photo ID to vote became law on July 1, 2014. A voter without a photo ID may cast a provisional ballot in the General and Special Elections on November 4, but must present a valid ID to the local electoral board within three days following the elections – no later than noon on Friday, November 7 – if his or her vote is to be counted. Meanwhile, voting by absentee ballot by mail requires no photo ID.
The League of Women Voters of Falls Church (LWVFC) – along with every other level of League from local to national – maintains that legislation requiring the use of a photo ID by voters is unnecessary and a step backward in facilitating participation in our democracy by all eligible citizens. Virginia is one of the 12 most restrictive states across the country in demanding that voters show some form of photo ID at the polls.
The new law could disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters. Last week, the Virginia Department of Elections reported that 198,902 active Virginia voters do not have the most commonly used identification: the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles-issued photo ID. According to Falls Church General Registrar David Bjerke, 152 of these voters live in this City.
The new photo ID law has required extensive outreach efforts by state and local elections offices to ensure these citizens have approved identification on Election Day. It has also forced development of a new process for issuing Virginia voter identification cards with photos.
For now, however, a photo ID is required to vote in Virginia, and LWVFC is committed to making sure all voters know the new rules. At a public League forum last Sunday, Falls Church Electoral Board members Renee Andrews and M. Margarette Shovlin and Registrar Bjerke emphasized that “every registered voter will be able to vote on Election Day.” Here is what you need to do to be sure your vote counts.
If you plan to vote either absentee in person or at the polls on November 4, you will need to show one of the following forms of photo identification:
• Virginia Driver’s License or other photo ID issued by Virginia
• U.S. Military ID
• U.S. Passport or other ID issued by the local, state, or federal government
• Employee ID card with a photograph and issued by the employer in the ordinary course of business
• Student ID with a photograph and issued by any institution of higher learning in Virginia
• Virginia Voter Identification Card
IDs with expiration dates must be current or not expired more than 12 months before the election. There is no expiration date on the new Virginia voter identification card.
If you don’t have a photo ID, you can get the free Virginia voter ID card from a registrar’s office in three steps:
(1) Find a registrar’s office convenient for you at https://www.voterinfo.sbe.virginia.gov/. The Falls Church office, located at City Hall, 300 Park Avenue, #101 East, is open from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
(2) Go to the registrar’s office to fill out the Voter Photo Identification Application, which requires the last four digits of your Social Security Number, birth date, and signature, and get your picture taken. The application includes a statement certifying that you have no other valid photo ID, but Bjerke said there is no penalty if you do have another ID.
(3) Receive your photo voter ID card in the mail within seven to 10 business days. If your card doesn’t arrive, call the State Board of Elections toll-free at (800) 552-9745.
If you are a new voter, you will need to register to vote before you can get a voter ID card. Because of the time required to receive the state-issued card, voters applying after October 12 will receive a temporary ID document valid only for the November 4th elections. Voters without a photo ID or the temporary ID may cast provisional ballots and then go to the registrar to request the temporary ID before noon on November 7 to have their votes counted.
There are 19 approved reasons for voting absentee. If you will be outside the City for business or personal reasons at any time on November 4, you may apply to vote absentee by mail and will not need a photo ID.
If you have questions about these new rules, call (866) OUR-VOTE (687-8683). Finally, remember these “last dates:” October 14 to register to vote; October 28 to apply for an absentee ballot by mail; and November 1 to vote absentee in person. Polls are open from 6:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. on Election Day, November 4.
Edith Holmes Snyder is president of the League of Women Voters of Falls Church.