Gov. Bob McDonnell has recommended amendments to legislation requiring voters to show identification at the polls, inserting changes that would give local election officials more discretion to approve provisional ballots cast by citizens who lack identification documents.
The General Assembly last month passed legislation (HB 9 and SB 1) that would require voters to present valid identification in order to cast a regular ballot.
The legislation, coming in a presidential election year, stirred heated debate during the General Assembly session. Black political and civic leaders have likened the measure to poll taxes, literacy tests and other voter suppression tactics that Virginia employed during the Jim Crow era. Democrats argued that the bill also could affect the voting rights of seniors and other voters who may be less likely to have the required identification. The bill cleared the evenly divided Senate thanks to Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling’s tie-breaking vote.
Individuals who lack proper identification would be allowed to cast provisional ballots, but lawmakers decided that those ballots would be counted only if individuals could produce proper identification before votes are canvassed.
Under McDonnell’s proposed change, local electoral boards or general registrars can count the provisions ballots if they determine that the signature on the ballot matches the signature in the individual’s voter file. The governor’s amendment mirrors a provision in the original version of a bill passed by the House of Delegates. But the provision was dropped when in negotiations with the Senate, which did not include the provision in its version of the bill.
McDonnell’s amendments were filed late Monday, shortly before his midnight deadline to act on bills passed during the legislative session that ended March 10. The General Assembly will convene April 18 to act on bills McDonnell vetoed and amended
McDonnell vetoed seven bills, including a measure (SB 471) that would require the state board of education to develop regulations for physical education programs in public schools. McDonnell amended a similar bill (HB 1092) which will require the state to come up with guidelines for physical education programs in elementary and middle schools.
The governor signed legislation (SB 131) awarding tax credits to individuals and corporations that contribute to private school scholarships. The legislation originally was designed to help poor students, but the final version of the bill extends scholarship eligibility to children from families with incomes up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. The state would cap the tax credit program at $25 million annually when it takes effect in 2014. McDonnell made minor changes to a companion bill (HB 321).
Most Democrats opposed the legislation, arguing that the tax expenditure will drain money from the state’s general fund, which supports public education. It took Bolling’s tie-breaking vote to get the measure through the Senate.
– Michael Sluss