Opinion Letter: You’ll Need ID to be ‘Election Ready’
By KEITH SCARBOROUGH
There have been several changes in voting laws and procedures that every voter should know about. Here are four important questions all voters need to answer in order to be ready to vote this fall.
(1) Are you registered to vote at your CURRENT address? If you have moved or changed your name due to marriage or divorce since you last voted, you must update your voter registration information. The deadline to register or to update your voter registration status is October 15. You can verify your registration status by going to the State Board of Elections website at sbe.virginia.gov or by calling the PWC Voter Registration and Elections Office at (703) 792-6470.
(2) Has your polling place been changed? Every ten years, political district lines are redrawn to reflect population changes. Prince William County magisterial districts, Virginia General Assembly districts and US Congressional districts have all been redrawn over the past two years. As a result of redistricting, your polling place may have been changed to a different location. You can verify your correct polling place online at www.sbe.virginia.gov or at pwcgov.org or by calling the PWC Voter Registration and Elections Office. Be sure to verify your correct polling place BEFORE election day.
(3) Do you have an acceptable form of ID? The Virginia General Assembly passed a new voter ID law this year, which was recently “precleared” by the U.S. Department of Justice. Since 2000, Virginia law has required all registered voters to provide some form of acceptable ID at the polls. However, voters without an ID could sign an “Affirmation of Identity” form under oath and be allowed to vote on the machine.
Under the new law, voters without an acceptable form of ID will no longer be allowed to sign the “Affirmation of Identity” form and vote on the machine. They will be required to vote a Provisional Ballot. This is a paper ballot that is not counted on Election Day; the Electoral Board decides later whether to count Provisional Ballots. Voters without an acceptable form of ID who cast a Provisional Ballot must provide a copy of an acceptable ID to the Electoral Board by noon on the Friday after the election in order to have their ballot counted.
The following are now acceptable forms of ID:
• Voter registration card
• Social Security card
• Valid VA driver’s license
• Any federal, Virginia state or local government-issued ID
• Any valid student-ID issued by a higher education institution in VA
• Any valid employee-ID card containing a photo of the voter
• A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check or paycheck that shows the name and address of the voter
• A permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Unlike new laws in several other states, the new Virginia voter ID law does not require a photo-ID. In addition, a new voter card will be mailed to all registered voters beginning in late September by the State Board of Elections. Be sure you have one of the acceptable forms of ID when you go to the polls.
(4) Do you qualify to vote absentee? Registered voters who will be away from Prince William County on Election Day or who are unable to go to the polls for certain reasons may vote by absentee ballot. Eligible voters may vote in-person prior to Election Day or apply to have an absentee ballot mailed to them.
Who is eligible to vote absentee?
• Persons absent from the county on business or vacation
• Persons working and commuting to and from home for 11 or more hours between 6AM/7PM
• Students and their spouses residing out of the county
• Active duty military members, their spouses and dependents
• Persons temporarily residing outside of the US
• First responders
• Persons with a physical disability, illness or pregnancy
• Persons who are the primary caretaker of a confined family member
• Persons with a religious obligation
• Electoral Board members, registrars and election officers
• Designated Representatives of candidates or political parties working inside the polls
• Persons confined while awaiting trial or following misdemeanor conviction
• Persons wishing to vote only for President and Vice President who have moved from Virginia to another state on or after October 8, 2012
To vote absentee by mail, you must submit a completed Absentee Ballot Application to the PWC Voter Registration and Elections Office, 9250 Lee Avenue, Suite 1, Manassas, VA 20110 by October 30th. Ballots will be mailed out beginning on September 21st and must be returned to the Voter Registration office by 7PM on Election Day.
In person absentee voting begins September 21st at two locations: the Office of Voter Registration and Elections in Manassas and the Voter Registration Office in the Woodbridge DMV Office; 2731 Caton Hill Road, Woodbridge, VA 22192. There will also be in-person absentee voting later in the fall at two satellite locations: the McCoart Government Center and the Haymarket Town Hall. Saturday, November 3rd is the final day for in-person absentee voting.
All absentee votes will be counted on Election Day after the polls close at 7PM.
I encourage every voter to get election ready today.
Keith Scarborough is Chairman of the Prince William County Electoral Board.
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