Last night, I had the chance to talk to Richmond’s 8 News about a legal challenge to Virginia’s voter identification law. As usual, Mark Tenia did his best to explain a complicated political problem in less than two minutes; here’s the rest of the story.

  • Virginia passed the law in 2013; it requires voters to produce a valid photo identification at the polls. The law’s requirements are not as strict as some other states; for example, you can use student IDs from Virginia public and private schools.
  • The lawsuit, filed in June of last year, is brought by the Democratic Party of Virginia. It’s part of a coordinated effort by the national party to challenge electoral laws that it believes have limited the party in recent state and national elections. (The Virginia redistricting lawsuit you may have heard about is also part of this effort.)
  • The National Conference of State Legislatures offers a nice history of voter ID laws. It neglects to mention, though, that the recent efforts toward voter ID are part of a nationally coordinated effort by a Republican-affiliated group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This group epitomizes a smart strategy by conservative activists; long ago they recognized that a lot of politics happen at the state level. So ALEC generates model bills for state legislators that favor conservative causes and Republican politicians, including a model voter ID bill.
  • Republicans typically defend voter ID by saying that the law prevents voter fraud. But the kind of fraud that voter ID would protect against — voter impersonation — is extremely rare. We just have no evidence that this happens on any kind of wide scale, if at all. (The other claim supporters often make — that it promotes public confidence in election results — seems true only for Republican voters.)

[Continue reading Richard J. Meagher’s post at RVA Politics.]

Richard J. Meagher blogs at The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.