|Revise Valid Definition
|Ended on 8/4/2014
Although I am a member of the Albemarle County Electoral Board (EB), I am submitting the following comments in my individual capacity and not on behalf of the EB, which has neither discussed nor taken a position on the definition of “valid” in Virginia’s proposed Photo ID Regulations.
I support the definition of the word “valid” that was adopted by the Virginia State Board of Elections on June 10, 2014 as part of the Photo ID Regulations. In particular, I strongly agree with the sentence that states, “Other data contained on the document, including but not limited to expiration date, shall not be considered in determining the validity of the document.”
The reason for my position is straightforward. Under revised Section 24.2-643 of the Code of Virginia that became effective on July 1, 2014, the focus of voter identification at the polling place has shifted exclusively to a limited number of specific types of documents that contain a photograph of the qualified voter (and his or her name, obviously). Other information on any such document, other than the identity of the issuer, has become superfluous. Any expiration date on a driver's license or other photo ID is there for a purpose that is unrelated and irrelevant to the usefulness of the photograph in identifying a voter.
For example, the expiration date on a driver's license is related to the continued ability of an individual to safely operate a motor vehicle on the State's highways. It reflects a judgment by the State as to how long that person should be allowed to drive with his or her current license prior to renewal, consistent with public safety. With respect to the photograph on the license, there is no guarantee that the photo on even an unexpired driver's license will be adequate for ID purposes (e.g., if the person's appearance has drastically changed since the license was issued) and, correspondingly, there is no reason why the photo on a license that was validly issued but expired three years ago, for example, could not be adequate for ID purposes if the person's appearance has not drastically changed in the interim. In sum, the expiration date on the license is irrelevant for the purpose of photo identification.
The same principle applies with respect to expiration dates on the other types of photo ID documents identified in revised Section 24.2-643 that are modified by the term “valid.” For example, an expiration date on a student identification card (if indeed there is such an expiration date) might be there strictly for the administrative convenience of the school, such as the end of a school year. An expired card could serve just as well as an unexpired card for photo ID purposes. Even a student identification card presented at the polling place by a person who is no longer enrolled as a student at that college or university could suffice for ID purposes if the person’s appearance has not changed drastically in the interim.
Finally, the same principle applies with respect to other information on the photo ID document, such as the address of the person at the time the document was issued. It is completely irrelevant for the purpose of comparing the physical appearance of the person who presents the document at the polling place with his or her photo on the ID document.
While I was not in favor of the change in our election law that restricted identification documents at the polling place to those with a photograph of the voter, we now need to implement regulations that are consistent with the new law and its implications. We should not be adding additional barriers to voting that are not in the current law and that depart from the law’s focus on using photographs to verify the identity of the voter.