September 25, 2008

Civil Liberties Groups says information being sent to local voters is misleading

Petersburg, VA – The ACLU of Virginia faxed a letter today to the City of Petersburg Voter Registrar asking that an informational notice being sent to Petersburg voters be revised because it leads voters to believe they must have an I.D. with them in order to vote on Election Day.

Under Virginia law, voters who are not carrying identification with them when they arrive at the polls may fill out an Affirmation of Identity form, after which they are allowed to cast their vote. (This does not apply to first-time voters in a federal election if they registered using a process that did not require them to show identification. Those individuals must produce identification or cast a provisional ballot that will be counted after identification is produced.)

The notice from the Petersburg Registrar, which accompanies the recipient’s Voter I.D. card, is being sent to some, and perhaps all, registered voters in Petersburg. It reads in part:

Do remember that Identification is required to vote. So please bring this Voter I.D. card or any one of the following form[sic] of I.D. with you: Valid VA Driver’s License, Social Security Card, Gov’t Agency I.D., or any valid Employee I.D. card containing a photo. Having your bar coded Voter ID card or Driver’s License immediately available will enable you to be processed much quicker and help eliminate delays.

“Year after year, the number one complaint we receive from voters on Election Day is that they were told they could not vote without an I.D., even though that is not true,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “The Petersburg Registrar is exacerbating the problem in Virginia by neglecting to point out that voters may vote, even if they have lost their I.D. or have forgotten to bring it with them to the polling place.”

“We are particularly concerned that miscommunications about the I.D. requirement will have a disproportionate impact on minority and elderly voters,” added Willis. “Recent studies show that racial minorities and elderly people are more likely to show up at the polls without I.D.s. Indeed, one recent study estimated that 20 million Americans of voting age do not have the kind of government-issued I.D. required to vote in some states.”

A copy of the ACLU’s letter to the Petersburg registrar is available at the following link:

Contact: Kent Willis (Office) 804/644-8022