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Gov. McDonnell Still Undecided On Voter ID Bills

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Two new bills being considered by Gov. Bob McDonnell could require Virginia voters to show up at the polls with ID.
Michael Pope
Two new bills being considered by Gov. Bob McDonnell could require Virginia voters to show up at the polls with ID.

Civil rights advocates are calling on Republican Governor Bob McDonnell to veto a pair of bills that would require voters to bring identification to the polls in Virginia.

A spokesman for the governor says McDonnell has not yet decided what he will do with two bills. The new Republican majority in the Virginia Senate made the issue a priority, introducing the effort as Senate Bill 1. Democrats say the measure is a cynical ploy to suppress turnout of poor and minority voters.

"In a very close election, you could probably point to a hundred different factors that could have an impact," says Kyle Kondik, political analyst with the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "This very well could be one of them." 

The sticking point is what happens to voters who show up without proper identification. Last week, the governor tried to add an amendment that would allow local elections officials to compare signatures on provisional ballots to signatures on applications. The General Assembly rejected that amendment, which some say could jeopardize approval from the Department of Justice.

"Maybe that's Governor McDonnell's thinking about it, is that he doesn't know quite what to do, given that these laws can be somewhat controversial," says Kondik.

The Department of Justice will have to approve any changes to how the state conducts elections. Kent Willis, executive director of American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia agrees with the governor. 

"This difference, what the governor added to it, and that not being in the bill, could be a critical difference when the Justice Department decides whether this bill complies with the Voting Rights Act or not," says Willis.  

McDonnell is expected to make a decision in the next few days.

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