I attended a presentation in late August called “Evolution of Virginia Elections.” It was quite interesting, especially for anyone who has an interest in Virginia history. I obtained a copy of the PowerPoint to go with the notes I made that day. Loved the info on the second slide:
The research for this project has unearthed closets full of skeletons! The beginning of voter registration in Virginia was to PREVENT people from voting!
Spend any time reading about the Convention of 1902 and the subsequent adoption of the resulting constitution and you know that’s true.
I was surprised, though, at how much the registrars actually do. The list gets longer all the time, as the General Assembly tasks them with something new. Annual absentee applications? Didn’t even know they existed. Shortened registration deadlines, expanded absentee voting periods, training 3rd party registration groups – they are quite busy!
And I’ve no doubt they toil in relative obscurity. Quick: name the general registrar in your city/county. I doubt if I’d have known ours in Norfolk had I not previously been a candidate and had to deal with the office.
The latest on their plates is the production of free photo ID cards. You know, Virginia spent a ton of money a few years ago, sending voter registration cards to everyone. Now we’ve got to have a photo ID. As I said in the article, a solution in search of a problem, but the law, nevertheless. The Washington Post gave us all quite a scare when they reported over 450,000 Virginia voters lacked a driver’s license. They updated the story with the correct numbers provided by the SBE (pdf) but failed to mention it was wasn’t driver’s licenses but DMV-issued photo IDs, which include driver’s licenses but also other forms of photo ID.
When I spoke with Elisa Long, Norfolk’s General Registrar, Friday morning as I was writing my column, we didn’t have the updated numbers nor had the SBE yet put out their press release. Long told me at that time that the number sounded high, plus it didn’t mean all of those folks lacked photo ID. The number, she said, needed to be reduced by other forms of photo ID that people might have.
Bottom line: Virginia voters will have photo IDs. The registrars are making sure of it. And that’s a good thing.
And if all goes according to plan, I’ll be back on track for Thursday columns 😉
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