Back in April, instead of signing the voter ID bill, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell sent it back to the legislature for several amendments, with mixed results. He ultimately decided to sign it into law, but issued an executive order mandating that the State Board of Elections conduct voter education and provide all registered voters with free ID.
The politics, however, remain a concern. ALEC Exposed reports that the lead sponsor of the original Senate version, Stephen Martin (R-11), is ALEC’s Virginia Chair and the lead sponsor of its House companion, Mark Cole (R-88), is also affiliated with ALEC. So is Governor McDonnell, who voting rights advocates say continues to ignore another source of disenfranchisement in his state.
Virginia is one of four states that permanently disenfranchise people with felony convictions, though law permits the governor to grant individual clemency. Restoration requires extensive paperwork and an application and has left nearly 378,000 – almost 7% of the population – without the right to vote. Advocates contend that suffrage should be automatically restored after ex-offenders complete their sentences, including any fees or restitution.
It makes me think of voter suppression and I don’t say that word lightly. The media has said in recent past that Governor McDonnell has restored more voting rights than other governors, but it’s still not enough. It’s still a drop in the bucket.
For more information, click here and here, and check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.