Bill Alert: Voting Bills To Be Heard in Va. Legislature

By Erin Ferns Lee January 24, 2017
Virginia state capitol in Richmond. (Ron Cogswell/Creative Commons)

Several bills that would affect the right to vote will be considered in Virginia’s legislature today, including two that Project Vote opposes.

We submitted testimony for a bill that restricts community-run voter registration drives (SB 871) and testimony for another bill (HB 1598) that would force citizens to provide documentary proof of citizenship to register to vote.

Voter registration drives are a powerful tool to register potential voters because they reach people in their communities—at their homes, schools, and businesses. Data show that voter registration drives play a vital role in increasing political participation.

Senate Bill 871 introduces several problematic features to the voter registration process that put “burdensome administrative requirements on grassroots organizing and registration efforts,” writes Project Vote election counsel Michelle Kanter Cohen in today’s testimony.

House Bill 1598 would require applicants to provide documentary proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote in state and local elections. Applicants who do not provide proof-of-citizenship would only be allowed to vote in federal elections.

The impact of these laws stems, in part, from the fact that many Americans lack the necessary ID to fulfill the requirements.

Requiring documentary proof of citizenship also has the potential to have a chilling effect on voter registration drives because most people don’t walk around with their birth certificates and naturalization papers. And community-based registration drives cannot drag a copy machine to every site. As such, HB 1598 “will hobble community-based voter registration drives, which serve as critical intermediaries between states and citizens who are alienated from the political process,” writes Ms. Kanter Cohen in today’s testimony.

Monitor these bills on Project Vote’s bill tracking interactive web page.