Archived Story

Secure the elections

Published 10:17pm Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Results from a study of voting patterns across the nation have been released just in time for them to be of some value to Gov. Bob McDonnell, who is considering whether to sign legislation passed by the Virginia General Assembly earlier this year that would tighten the requirements for those who wish to vote in elections held in the commonwealth.

The nonprofit and self-described nonpartisan group Nonprofit VOTE, whose website describes one of its goals as promoting “sustained increases in voter participation, especially among voters new to the process or with a recent history of lower participation,” released a report this week that showed Virginia had the seventh-highest level of voter participation of all 50 states in the 2012 election.

The commonwealth boasted a 66.9-percent voter turnout rate in an election in which Virginia was a key battleground state. Reasons for the high level of participation are obvious to anyone who was paying the slightest bit of attention to the election — heavy advertising, sophisticated get-out-the-vote campaigns and high levels of voter engagement in the months leading up to the election were among the driving forces.

What’s less obvious — and what has gone under-reported — is the fact that Virginia’s much-maligned 2012 legislation to require some form of identification for those who wish to cast ballots seems to have had little, if any, of the chilling effect on voting that the law’s detractors warned of in their overwrought screeds against it. In fact, Virginia’s turnout ranking rose from 11th in the nation in 2008 to the seventh-place level it achieved in 2012.

Opponents of the 2012 measure and the 2013 one that would replace it continue to claim that there is not demonstrated need for voter ID laws, as there’s little evidence that voter fraud is a widespread problem. Further, they claim that voter ID laws disenfranchise minorities.

The first argument assumes that Virginians should be willing to sacrifice one or more elections to such fraud before taking action to safeguard the voting process. Prior to November’s election in Virginia, there was little evidence to prove the claim of disenfranchisement. Now, though, there is solid evidence to the contrary.

Since the most disenfranchising thing that could happen to voters is an election won through fraudulent voting, there is good reason to move forward with the legislature’s plan to safeguard the commonwealth’s elections.

Gov. McDonnell has some hard choices to make as he considers signing some of the controversial legislation that sits on his desk today. The Nonprofit VOTE study should make this particular decision a simple one. Virginia voters deserve their elections to be secure.


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