Virginia Democrats File Lawsuit to Block Voter ID Program

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:24 PM EDT

(CNS - The Virginia state Democratic party is going to court in an attempt to block a Republican-backed pilot program that would have voters in ten Virginia localities flashing special voter identification cards when they show up to vote in the state's legislative elections next month.

Republicans says the voter ID cards would combat voter fraud. Democrats believe it harkens back to the days when poll taxes and rigged reading tests kept blacks from voting.

The Virginia General Assembly approved the voter identification project earlier this year. Under the plan, the state board of elections will issue 1 million voter ID cards this month, along with a letter explaining that the cards will be all a voter needs to prove his ID when he shows up at the polls. (Under Virginia law, other acceptable forms of voter identification include voter registration cards, Social Security cards, driver's licenses, passports, and military or student IDs.)

Virginia state Delegate Jerrauld Jones, a Norfolk Democrat said Thursday, "There isn't enough evidence of election fraud to warrant erection of this barrier to the voting booth." But many Virginia Republicans disagree, noting that Clinton administration officials at the US Justice Department approved the program. Changes in Virginia election law require the approval of the US Justice Department under the federal Voting Rights Act.

Governor James Gilmore (R-VA) said in Richmond Thursday, " I can't see why anybody would not want to have a fair and open and honest election. That's exactly what this program does."

Virginia Republican party spokesman Tim Murtaugh said Democrats "are desperate to hold onto the power they have enjoyed for more than a century and will even stoop to blocking honest elections to do it."

Republicans already control the Virginia State Senate and they need only a two-seat gain in the Virginia House of Delegates to take undisputed control of the General Assembly for the first time since Reconstruction.

No court date has been set for hearing the lawsuit. The 10 localities involved in the voter ID pilot program are Arlington, Bedford, Fairfax, Frederick and Henry counties and the cities of Charlottesville, Colonial Heights, Norfolk, Roanoke and Virginia Beach.