Virginia is now the 17th state to adopt a voter ID law, and will likely not be the last. By signing legislation Tuesday requiring voters to present a photo ID before casting a ballot, Gov. Bob McDonnell not only strengthened the integrity of the commonwealth's electoral system, he did so with the broad support of a large majority of state residents.
A Quinnipiac poll taken on Feb. 21 found a whopping 75 percent of state residents in favor of photo ID, with majority support among all demographic groups by party, gender, age, race and income. This is as close as it comes to unanimity in the political sphere, so McDonnell's signature cannot in any way be construed as a partisan effort to disenfranchise anybody. He was clearly following the wishes of his constituents.
And what the bipartisan Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform recommended back in 2005, when it called photo identification of voters one of the "five pillars" of fair elections.
Despite the unusually high level of popular support, the photo ID bill sponsored by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, just barely made it out of the evenly divided state Senate. As The Washington Examiner's Steve Contorno reported in February, Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling had to cast the tie-breaking vote.
Government-issued photo IDs -- which are already required to board a plane, enter federal buildings, open a bank account, cash a check, drive a car, qualify for Social Security or Medicaid benefits, buy alcohol, or travel overseas -- are ubiquitous in our modern society. But for those who still don't have a driver's license, passport or other such means of identification, the new law requires election registrars in the commonwealth to provide one free of charge before the 2014 elections. This will cost taxpayers about $3 for each person who needs one, but it will be money well spent.
A companion executive order also requires state officials to launch a $200,000 education campaign to make sure everybody knows about the requirement. Voters who arrive at the polls without proper ID will still be able to cast a provisional ballot, which will be counted as long as they present acceptable identification prior to the certification of votes.
The outreach is in addition to the $2 million the commonwealth spent last year to reissue voter registration cards after the legislature tightened up the procedure to ensure that elections in Virginia are fair. Photo ID is just the logical next step.