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WV House Likely To Pass Voter ID Bill

The Republican-controlled West Virginia Legislature is moving forward with voter-ID legislation. (West Virginia Legislature)
The Republican-controlled West Virginia Legislature is moving forward with voter-ID legislation. (West Virginia Legislature)
February 19, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The Republican-controlled House of Delegates looks likely to pass a "voter ID" bill, and critics charge it's intended to suppress West Virginia's already low turnout.

House Bill 4013 passed the Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote and is expected to clear the House today. It would require that voters produce a government-issued photo ID - a step supporters say would stop voter impersonation. But Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, said there's never been a documented case of that in West Virginia. He said he suspects the real objective is to discourage some people from going to the polls.

"We had 32 percent voter turnout in the 2014 election," he said. "I don't believe that our problem is too many people voting. We don't have people showing up to vote twice; we can't get them to vote once."

The GOP-controlled Senate is likely to take up the bill next week. Observers say it has a good chance of passing.

Nationwide, said Julie Archer, project manager for the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, a voter is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit the kind of voting fraud that a voter ID law would stop. She said other states with these laws have seen turnout decline, particularly among liberal-leaning groups.

"The voters who are going to have their votes suppressed," she said, "are going to be the elderly, students, low-income folks, and people of color, who are less likely to have government-issued photo ID."

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 11 states have strict voter ID laws in place now. Critics have charged that conservative organizations are behind the push to expand that number.

Track HB 4013 and stream debate at legis.state.wv.us.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV