Herring's Legal Analysis of Voter ID Law Deems it Potentially Unconstitutional

Aug 6, 2014

Last month, a new law requiring voters to show a valid photo-ID at the polls went into effect, and Attorney General Mark Herring has recently decried the law as potentially unconstitutional. 

Herring and Obenshain
Credit wjla.com

The law went into effect on July 1st – and it requires voters to present a valid photo-ID at the polls if they wish to cast a ballot. Virginia residents without a valid photo-ID are able to acquire one for free after filling out a short application – and weeks before the law went into effect, the state elections board determined that expired forms of photo identification would qualify.

The law was sponsored by Republican state senator and former Attorney General Candidate Mark Obenshain on the basis of eliminating voter fraud – and after the elections board ruled that expired ID’s were acceptable, he mandated a session for public comment on the qualifications, ultimately redefining a “valid” photo ID as one that is currently applicable or has expired within 30 days.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Attorney General Mark Herring is now decrying this language as confusing and potentially unconstitutional, and says it could “lead to the unequal treatment of voters in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.” He explains that it burdens election officials with the task of identifying every possible valid ID as “legal,” which could get confusing in situations where the ID presented is unexpired but might not meet “legal” standards as defined in the law – such as revoked or suspended identifications.

The law was labeled by many as unnecessary to begin with, but Obenshain claims Herring’s legal analysis is entirely political, saying it’s “part of a disturbing pattern, already the norm in Washington and increasingly prevalent in Richmond, in which the executive branch blithely disregards or disingenuously reinterprets laws it doesn’t like.”