Registrar’s outreach is a big deal

Published 9:54 pm Thursday, March 12, 2015

A great big “attaboy” is due Susan Saunders and her staff at the voter registrar’s office for their community outreach initiatives.

When the possibility of having to show a photo ID to vote was raised in the General Assembly, many people were horrified. Photo IDs such as driver’s licenses or passports cost money to obtain, and requiring one essentially would institute a 21st-century poll tax, they said.

But the state stepped in to provide free photo IDs to voters that needed one, if only because lawmakers knew the case that the new law violated voters’ constitutional rights would be a slam-dunk in the courts if they hadn’t done so. A 4-year-old could have tried it and been home in time for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch.

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In some of Virginia’s localities, obtaining that free ID still involves a trip to the voter registrar’s office. But that’s not the case in Suffolk, where Saunders and her office have gone out of their way to get to as many events as possible and collect the information needed to produce the ID and mail it to the voter.

With a laptop, camera and signature pad hooked up courtesy of the city’s information technology department, staff from the office have visited Lake Prince Woods retirement community twice, as well as Ruritan meetings, civic league meetings, community centers and the Peanut Festival. It has issued 142 of the photo identifications, putting it fourth among the state’s 130-some localities for the number issued.

That’s a significant achievement accomplished by a small office with nothing but a few pieces of equipment the city probably already owned. It also is making more people aware of the law, so those who didn’t need a photo ID benefited as well by knowing ahead of time they should take the one they already have to the polls.

Acceptable forms of identification include driver’s licenses or other DMV-issued identification cards, U.S. passports, other government-issued photo ID cards such as military IDs, a valid student photo ID from a college or university in Virginia or an employee identification card with a picture of the voter. For those cards that have an expiration date, they should have expired no more than a year prior to the Election Day when the voter is trying to use them.

For more information on the law or on how to get an ID, call Saunders’ office at 514-7750.