Know the rules to vote on Election Day

Angela James and Marian Schneider | 10/31/2014, 4:47 p.m.
When other Virginia voters arrive at their polling places on Nov. 4, many may be shocked to learn that they ...

Rosie Lee Wright was born 77 years ago in Shreveport, La. She has voted in nearly every election since she was old enough to participate in the electoral process. To ensure having a continued voice in our democracy after moving to Virginia in late 2012, she took the responsibility of registering to vote online. Yet under Virginia’s new photo ID law, Ms. Wright may be unable to cast her ballot on Nov. 4.

A Virginia law, passed by the General Assembly last year, now requires everyone who casts a ballot to provide one of a few limited forms of acceptable photo ID — a Virginia’s driver’s license or non-driver ID card; a U.S. passport; an employee photo ID; a military photo ID; a Virginia college or university student photo ID; or a photo ID otherwise issued by the federal government, the commonwealth of Virginia or a jurisdiction within Virginia.

Before the new photo ID law became effective, Virginians could submit forms of ID without a photo, such as their voter registration card, a bank statement or a utility bill. Now, such easily accessible forms of identification are unacceptable.

The Virginia State Board of Elections made the law more restrictive this year by requiring IDs to be current if they have an expiration date, or not expired by more than 12 months. This new expiration date requirement presents a barrier for Ms. Wright, 77, whose Virginia driver’s license expired in 2011.

Even though the picture on Ms. Wright’s license still resembles her today — meeting the photo ID law’s supposed purpose of having voters prove who they are — her ID is not acceptable for voting in this election. Free just-for-voting photo IDs being provided at voter registrar’s offices are little consolation for Ms. Wright, who uses a walker, and has heart and lung conditions that require use of an oxygen tank. While she can reach her polling place at a nearby school, she is not hearty enough to travel to her registrar’s office to obtain a photo voter ID card. Her daughter can’t afford to take off from work to drive her mother to the registrar’s office during its daytime hours.

After nearly six decades of voting, Ms. Wright may be barred from casting a ballot for the first time in her life.

When other Virginia voters arrive at their polling places on Nov. 4, many may be shocked to learn that they also are unable to vote — especially seniors, African-Americans, Latinos and the poor, who are less likely to have the required forms of photo ID.

While Virginia’s voter ID law unfortunately will prevent some voters, such as Ms. Wright, from participating in this election, it does not have to stop you. With information on the new rules and immediate action, you still can prepare to vote.

Before Election Day, do what you can to ensure that you — and everyone you know — are properly registered to vote and have one of the required forms of photo ID. If you appear at your polling place without a photo ID, you will be required to cast a provisional ballot. Understand, however, that a provisional ballot will not be counted unless voters can go to the local election board by noon on the Friday following the election and present an acceptable photo ID, or apply for a Virginia Voter Photo ID.