A debate continues in Virginia over bills before Governor Bob McDonnell that change some of the state's voting laws. A grassroots coalition delivered more than 6,000 petition signatures today asking the governor to veto legislation that the group says is meant to suppress minority voters.
Under Senate Bill 1, voters can no longer sign an affidavit to prove their identity if they don't bring a proper ID, but they can cast a provisional ballot that must be verified after the election. House Bill 63 limits who can be present when the ballots are verified. The Virginia New Majority's Jay Johnson says it took decades of passing new laws so that women and blacks could vote, and the bills are an eerily familiar reminder of attempts to deny those rights.
"Do you realize that you were given the privilege to vote in the 15th Amendment in 1870 and this country is still taking actions?" asks Johnson. "For what? Everything else that has been approved constitutionally happens. What doesn't happen? Me being able to just go down and say 'My name is Janice Johnson, I live at this address, and I'm here to vote.'"
Bill supporters say voters will have more identification options, including government checks, paychecks, student IDs, and utility bills. But the coalition says minorities, seniors, and college students may be unable to acquire the proper forms in time and that simply forgetting one's I.D would cause an unnecessary burden.