In 2013, the General Assembly passed SB 1256 which required photo identification at the polls to vote; it also required the State Board of Elections to provide free voter registration cards with a photograph and signature for voters who do not have any other permissible photo ID.
Historically, a major issue has been finding access to this free photo ID. Prior to 2018, the most common place to look to obtain a photo ID was through the DMV website. Though the State Board of Elections has a direct link to the free photo voter ID application, it was difficult to find. The DMV offers photo IDs however, these IDs are not strictly for voting, require multiple methods of identification verification, and cost a fee.
Last year, Delegate Dawn M. Adams introduced a bill to create more places to access free voter IDs and another bill to fund the cost. The subcommittee commended both bills, however because the funding source was not secured, the bills were tabled. Despite this, Delegate Adams was able to improve access after successful conversations with the Commissioner for the DMV. The DMV now has a direct link to the State Board of Elections website: https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/general/#vote.asp . Through this link a voter can complete the simple and free application; however, the voter must still go to the local registrar’s office to obtain the ID.
For some populations in the Commonwealth of Virginia, it is difficult and costly to obtain government issued photo identification. For example, due to the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, the Bureau of Vital Statistics refused to grant birth certificates to mixed race Virginians and Native Americans who refused to check the box that would identify them as "colored." There are still people today in Virginia who lack birth certificates because of this racially discriminatory law.
The photo voter ID law allows citizens to obtain a photo ID solely for the purposes of voting should they not have any other permissible photo ID. Currently, the only locations where one may obtain this free photo voter ID is the local registrar's office. Depending on the locality, the office may be far away, and potential voters may lack access to public transportation, especially in some rural and suburban areas.
Despite these issues, this requirement is the law of the land and is supported by most Virginians. Though it is unlikely this law will change anytime soon, Delegate Adams believes we can make it easier to vote, and together we can increase accessibility to obtain IDs by removing a barrier that impacts the elderly, people of color, people with disabilities, and young adults.
More specifics from the 2018 General Assembly Session: Delegate Dawn M. Adams put forth two bills to address this issue and increase access to these free photo voter IDs. The bills were tabled due to the lack of revenue stream, and Delegate Adams will be bringing them back in 2019 with your help.
Step One: The Revenue-Sharing Specialty License Plate
In order to have more availability statewide to access free photo voter IDs, Delegate Adams proposed a specialty license plate to feature Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream."
The General Assembly has the sole authority to approve revenue-sharing specialty license plates. In order to consider approval, 450 applications for the "I Have a Dream" specialty license plate must be completed, pre-paid, and received by December 31, 2018.
Once approved by the General Assembly, the design process will begin and the plates will be created by the Department of Motor Vehicles for the pre-registered applicants and will then be available to the general public.
The money generated with these license plates will offset the cost of creating photo voter identification cards.
To read the 2018 bill, HB 1497, click here:
Step Two: Increase Access to Voting and Educate
With the revenue stream, Delegate Dawn M. Adams is proposing the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) provide free photo voter IDs at locations throughout the Commonwealth.
In addition to pay for the identification cards, the DMV would champion an educational campaign to educate the public on this new program and their rights as voters.
To read the 2018 bill, HB 1496, click here: