The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a Virginia voter ID law. The ruling sets the stage for similar laws across the nation following the Supreme Court's 2013 gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Virginia’s S.B. 1256 requires voters to present valid IDs, reports Bloomberg. Failure to do so will still allow voters to cast a provisional ballot, but the voter then has three days to present an ID for the ballot to be counted. If the voter has no ID, the state board of elections must issue one free of charge.
When the law was challenged, the State of Virginia “argued that the relevant question should not be whether blacks and whites have IDs at the same rate, but whether it’s harder for blacks to get IDs -- including the state’s special elections ID -- than for whites,” writes Noah Feldman. “The state added that public opinion polls support a desire for voter ID, a fact which was supposed to make the law’s motivations less suspect.”
An argument the 4th Circuit agreed with, ruling the law was not intentionally discriminatory.
“Not only does the substance of SB 1256 not impose an undue burden on minority voting, there was no evidence to suggest racially discriminatory intent in the law’s enactment,” the judges wrote, notes The Washington Post.
Virginia “will continue to work to expand access to the ballot box for qualified voters and resist political efforts to erect new barriers to our democracy,” Brian Coy, a spokesman for Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, said after the ruling.
The ruling “discounts the reality of the hardships that voters with disabilities encounter, and ignores that many other vulnerable groups of people lack ID or the means to obtain one,” Claire Gastanaga, executive director of the Virginia ACLU, wrote in a statement. “Whether our voter ID law is legal is of no moment; the fact is that it is wrong to enact unnecessary barriers to voting just because you can.”
“Today’s ruling is a victory for a common-sense law that protects the integrity of Virginia’s elections,” Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell, a Republican, countered. He added that the legal challenge of the law was “politically motivated and unnecessary.”