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Virginia's McDonnell moves backwards on voting rights

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)Getty Images

As pernicious and unnecessary as voter-ID laws are, if policymakers insist on pursuing the policy, the least they can do is follow the example set by Virginia last year. In the commonwealth, Gov. Bob "Ultrasound" McDonnell (R) signed a measure into law, but it included an expansive list of acceptable IDs, including utility bills, paychecks, bank statements, government checks, or a current Virginia college ID.

The Justice Department had used the Voting Rights Act to block voter-ID laws in other states, but gave Virginia a green light for its more moderate approach.

The system proved effective -- so Virginia Republicans decided to make it worse (thanks to Ari Berman for the heads-up).

Voters in Virginia will be required to bring photo identification to the polls beginning next year.

Gov. Bob McDonnell signed an election bill Tuesday that his fellow Republicans said was a safeguard against voter fraud. Democrats bitterly denounced the legislation as a Jim Crow-era tactic to suppress the votes of the elderly, minorities and the underprivileged.

"While we all want elections to 'protect the sanctity of our democratic process', there is nothing inherently wrong with the system now," stated Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) Chair Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton). "This is merely a continuation of attempts by Republicans to suppress the vote of individuals who are not likely to support their right wing agenda. ... Arguing non-existent voter fraud, this legislation is a solution in search of a problem."

It appears the new restrictions will not apply to this year's gubernatorial elections in Virginia, but will be in place for the 2014 congressional midterms.