State election officials are ahead of schedule with the multistage implementation plan of Virginia’s new voter ID law that takes effect July 1.
“Our first priority is to make sure our staff and registrars are equally trained on how to provide this free ID for voters who need it,” said Don Palmer, secretary of the State Board of Elections, in an interview after a board meeting Wednesday.
Officials are also gearing up to educate the public about the law. A flier informing voters of the upcoming changes in the law will be handed to voters as they exit the polls during the May and June primaries.
“This was a suggestion from the head of the agency, Mr. Palmer, and vetted through our work group, and everyone concluded it was a great idea,” said Susan Lee, the agency’s election uniformity manager.
“We are hoping to use funding that becomes available to us as part of the voter outreach [program],” Lee said.
The state is organizing a marketing campaign and vetting vendors charged with the creation of a voter identification card that will meet requirements under the new law, according to a plan and timeline developed by the State Board of Elections.
The new ID will be available in July for voters who do not have other acceptable forms of identification, which include a Virginia driver’s license, a U.S. passport or any other photo ID issued by the United States, Virginia or one of its political subdivisions, a student ID issued by any institute of higher learning in Virginia or any employee identification card.
A work group — consisting of about a dozen general registrars, electoral board members and elections board staff — is tasked to make sure that “what we are doing meets the requirements and that what we are putting in place works well in a registrar’s environment,” Lee said.
Palmer said that in May, the board will host seven regional training sessions across the commonwealth, “where we are going to provide the hardware, software and instructions on how to implement this in their office.”
The software of a Web-based processing system, which has already been designed, will have a mobility part to it, allowing each registrar’s office to not only produce a free ID, but also to take the system into the communities, Palmer said.
“We want to make it available for folks to take it out into the community, if they decide to do so. Staff will be able to take the hardware out to a voter registration forum and provide the free ID,” he said.
Under the new law, documents that do not contain a photograph of the voter will no longer be acceptable forms of identification when a person is voting in person, beginning with the November election.
The new law allows voters without photo ID to cast a provisional ballot, but they must present identification to their local electoral board within four days after the election for their vote to be counted.
Hope Amezquita, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, said the ACLU remains concerned that voters with disabilities and lack of transportation will not have access to the free ID.
“We understand that there is a mobile component in the works for registrars to take out into the community, but we haven’t heard any plans to do large scale outreach to vulnerable communities of voters,” Amezquita said.
And given that the General Assembly hasn’t passed a budget yet, the money for a late-starting public education campaign may be in jeopardy, Amezquita said.