Virginia ACLU Seeking Voter Information

November 15, 2007

The American Civil Liberties Union is pressing local registrars across the state for materials related to voter identification.

The ACLU said in a statement Thursday the request is based on complaints by voters who were asked to present a driver's license
or other identification as a condition of voting. At least one registered voter was turned away last week because he was not
carrying an ID, the ACLU said.

Virginia law allows voters who are not carrying an ID to sign an "affirmation of identity" form. The civil liberties group said it has sent a Freedom of Information Act request to 134 registrars to seek copies of signs used at polling places and training materials that cover voter
identification requirements.

"Voting is a fundamental right and it is the essence of our participatory democracy," the ACLU's Virginia executive director, Kent Willis, said in the statement. "The fewer barriers there are to voting, the more democratic and fairer the process."

Election Day, the ACLU complained to the Fredericksburg registrar that a poster at a polling place implied that Virginia law requires an ID. The registrar removed the sign sometime around noon, the ACLU said.

Willis said the ACLU had received dozens of complaints after the November 6th General Assembly elections. A key concern, he said, is that "individual prejudices" can play into who is asked to present identification. Racial minorities and the elderly often are the targets, Willis said, citing national studies.

"The reason for requiring an ID, ostensibly and logically, is to prevent voter fraud," Willis said in an interview. "But here's the rub: Almost all voter fraud doesn't come from individuals, It comes from the people who count the votes."

Virginia, in particular, gives local registrars wider latitude to interpret state election law, he said. One purpose of the request, Willis said, is to encourage the State Board of Elections to take a more active role in ensuring election law is followed.

"This is a start," Willis said of the ACLU's request.

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