Friday, February 12, 2010

Poll Taxes Circa 2010

Today, the House of Delegates passed HB 498, a bill that changes Virginia law regarding voting. Currently, a voter is required to present ID and if they do not have ID, are required to sign an Affidavit of Identity. Then they are allowed to vote.

HB 498 provides that a voter must present a valid government-issued ID. If they cannot produce an ID, then they must cast a provisional ballot. The voter must then drive to the Electoral Board meeting the day after the election and provide evidence in support of their right to vote so that their ballot can be cast.

This requirement has become a trend in legislatures around the country after the U.S. Supreme Court found that requiring ID was not an unconstitutional restriction on voting in Crawford v. Marion Board of Elections in 2008.

I opposed this legislation because it disenfranchises people who do not have driver's licenses including the elderly, the poor, the blind, religious objectors, or even people who have simply lost their license. I also oppose it because I believe that any voting requirement that involves the payment of money amounts to a poll tax - a practice that the U.S. Supreme Court had to step in to stop in Virginia in 1966 in Harper v. State Board of Elections. For decades, the poll tax was used in Virginia to disenfranchise voters including my grandparents when they first moved here in 1935.

The Mount Vernon area is a very diverse community. We have one of the highest concentrations of elderly in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area. We also have large numbers of mass transit users and people who do not have vehicles. This law would potentially affect many voters in the 44th. I think it is bad public policy.

My comments are below along with some floor speeches of my colleagues who were very moving. The bill is moving on to the Virginia Senate - click here to contact your Senator.


  1. Thank goodness we still have the Senate to stop bad legislation. Love what you had to say on the issue. Thank you for doing the right thing and for spreading the word.

    Susan Mariner

  2. I have no audio on my system. You may have answered this.

    How will you ensure only citizens vote?

    I have no qualms about a procedure that ensures only those with the right to vote in the US do so.

  3. Thanks for the good work.

    Another factor to consider is that young voters often do not receive driver's licenses by the age of eighteen, often due to lack of ability to pay for things like driver's education instruction or auto insurance. Even more affluent teenagers have been raised in a world where parents are the taxi drivers well after 18. (Not that I'm thrilled about that, but it remains true for many.) Thus these young voters will not have the "appropriate" identification, nor the means to go to the government buildings to argue their case.

  4. Amcit - the bill's sponsor was asked on the floor if he was aware of a single documented case of voter impersonation in the history of the Commonwealth. He could think of none.

    I don't think most undocumented aliens are flocking to our country to vote. Most of them that I have run into in my criminal practice are typically looking to avoid as much government intervention as possible.

    I don't think we should be legislating for non-existent risks.

    I also met someone last night who had a green card and a driver's license. A license does not mean that you are registered to vote or a citizen.