Attorney General Mark R. Herring has cautioned state election officials that the new voter ID law, and what constitutes as a valid photo ID, has the potential to result in unconstitutionally unequal treatment of voters, reports The Richmond Times-Dispatch.
In an email sent on August 5, 2014, Herring said that the new law would create confusion at the polls and had the potential to violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment. Herring also warned that the new law could prohibit qualified voters from placing a ballot.
Herring said “I strongly encourage the board to reject the proposed language to make certain our elections remain as open and fair as possible.”
The scrutiny from Herring’s assessment was a part of the regulatory review to ensure that the proposed regulations were in compliance with the law. The board will meet again today to discuss the issue now that the obligatory 21-day public comment period is over.
Just before the law went into effect in June, the elections board determined that expired IDs were a valid form of identification that would be accepted at the polls. However, with concerns form Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), the sponsor of the bill, the elections board decided to open the issue for public comment to decide if the agency has the right to determine which forms of ID are valid.
According to the new law “valid” ID documents have “legal effect, legally or officially acceptable or of binding force” and are “genuinely issued by the agency or issuing entity appearing upon the document where the bearer of the document reasonably appears to be the person whose photograph is contained thereon.”
The law also allows for theses such documents to be accepted at the polls up to 30 days after their expiration. Herrings office found that in some instances the law would classify unexpired IDs as invalid. Election officials may not be able to tell if a license is “in legal effect” or is “officially acceptable or of binding force. An example of this would be if someone’s driver’s license has been revoked or suspended, under the current language of the law these people would not have valid identification.