In a defeat for those who want to make voting as easy as possible for everyone, the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Virginia’s voter photo ID law.
A simple reading of the law doesn’t make it sound too bad. It simply requires a voter to have some sort of photo identification, such as a driver’s license, a passport, or a student ID from a college in Virginia. The problem is that low income voters and members of minority groups are those most likely not to have the proper identification. Even if they wanted to get the proper ID, there are many people who simply can’t afford to get it (don’t forget, in addition to any monetary costs, you have to be able to take off work to spend the time in line to get an ID).
As a result, opponents of the legislation say the law violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the constitution. Furthermore, since the most highly impacted groups tend to vote Democratic, people argue the law was promoted by the Republican controlled state legislature as a way to reduce the chances of Democrats running in the Commonwealth.
There’s also the plain and simple fact that we haven’t seen the widespread voter fraud that Republicans claim to be worried about. When Donald Trump tweeted about losing the popular vote solely due to millions of people casting illegal ballots, for instance, there were members of the GOP who admitted the issue simply isn’t as big as he claims. In fact, the only sources claiming voter fraud happened were right-wing conspiracy websites.
With all that in mind, the Democratic Party of Virginia filed a lawsuit trying to overturn the legislation. The judge that originally heard the case, Henry Hudson, ruled that the legislation was legal because he believes “Virginia has provided all of its citizens with an equal opportunity to participate in the electoral process.” He highlighted things like absentee voting and provisional ballots as examples of what the Commonwealth had supposedly done to make things easier to vote.
The Democratic Party ended up appealing the ruling because they believed the law still placed an undue burden on minority groups and low income voters. It was this appeal that was denied by a three-judge panel earlier today. Judge Paul Niemeyer, writing for the majority, said the law was legal because it supposedly doesn’t “impose an undue burden on minority voting” and “there was no evidence to suggest racially discriminatory intent in the law’s enactment.”