| Gov. Terry McAuliffe |
Announcing he will attend the March on Washington on Saturday. (Photo by Jessica Nolte)
By Rodrigo Arriaza
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday vetoed a bill that he said could disenfranchise qualified voters but Republican legislators said could reduce voter fraud.
HB 2343, sponsored by Del. Robert Bell, R-Charlottesville, would have required the state Department of Elections to provide local registrars with a list of voters who, according to data-matching systems, have been found to be registered in another state.
In support of his proposal, Bell said it would have given localities direct access to information regarding possible voter fraud among residents.
“Information would be provided to the general registrars from each county or city when it’s found that one of their voters is also registered in another state, and it gives them the liberty to do what they want to with that information,” he said.
In a statement explaining his veto, McAuliffe said he believed the bill would have endangered the voting rights of some Virginians and increased the administrative burden on local governments.
“This bill would invite confusion and increase the possibility of violating federal law,” McAuliffe said. “Moreover, it would expose eligible and properly registered Virginians to the risk of improper disenfranchisement.”
The governor said that the measure would have generated confusion and unnecessary stress among localities throughout the state by decentralizing the commonwealth’s process for maintaining voter registration data.
“The commonwealth’s proven and efficient methods of list maintenance serve as a national model,” McAuliffe said. “We should focus on improving this system rather than needlessly increasing administrative burdens.”
HB 2343 had passed the House, 68-30, and the Senate, 23-15, during the recent legislative session. To override the veto, supporters of the bill must muster a two-thirds majority in both chambers when the General Assembly returns for a one-day session on April 5.
Also Wednesday, McAuliffe vetoed SB 872, which he said would be an “unnecessary and impractical barrier” to Virginia voters. The bill, sponsored by Del. Amanda F. Chase, R-Midlothian, would have required voters to submit photo identification when applying to vote absentee by mail.
The bill was identical to HB 1428, sponsored by Del. Buddy Fowler, R-Glen Allen. McAuliffe vetoed Fowler’s measure last week.
“The right to vote is a fundamental tenet of our democracy, and we should be doing all we can to facilitate eligible citizens’ access to the ballot,” McAuliffe said. “The requirement would not in any way deter fraudulent voting since it provides no means of verifying the identity of the individual depicted in the submitted photograph.”
The vetoed bills were among about 200 pieces of legislation that McAuliffe acted on this week. He signed into law such bills as:
- HB 2113, sponsored by Del. Mark Keam, D-Vienna, which would help the state Department of Taxation deter identity theft.
- HB 2119, also by Keam, which would require laser hair removal to be performed under the supervision of a doctor, physician assistant or nurse practitioner.
- HB 2217, sponsored by Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, which would aid victims of sexual violence and human trafficking.
- SB 982, sponsored by Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin, which would extend tax breaks for motion pictures being produced in Virginia.
- HB 1664, sponsored by Del. Thomas A. “Tag” Greason, R-Loudoun, which requires state universities to release reports regarding their graduates’ job employment rates.
- HB 2258, sponsored by Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Springfield, which would create a task force to raise awareness of suicide prevention services.