By Julie Archer, WV Citizen Action Group
I’m starting off this inaugural democracy update for the 2024 legislative session differently than I planned and getting straight to the bad news. As we go to press, the House Judiciary Committee is preparing to take up a bill that would “require all registered voters to produce a photo ID to vote in all public office elections.”
[UPDATE: The bill was taken off the agenda for the House Judiciary Committee meeting agenda on Wednesday. That’s good news, but it could be taken up at a future meeting. The committee will likely meet again on Friday, January 20. You can check the agenda here.]
You read that right. HB 4675 would require West Virginia voters to provide photo identification to vote in our elections.
Although current law requires voters to show some form of ID when they go to the polls, several forms of non-photo IDs are accepted including Medicare and Medicaid cards, hunting and fishing licenses, bank and debit cards, utility bills, and health insurance cards. HB 4675 would eliminate West Virginia’s current list of options, and anyone lacking a photo ID would be unable to vote.
Strict voter ID laws are voter suppression, plain and simple. Nationally, overly burdensome voter ID laws disenfranchise millions of eligible voters. The challenge of obtaining acceptable identification disproportionately impacts Black voters and other voters of color, people with disabilities, the poor, young people and senior citizens.
Voter fraud, and more specifically, voter impersonation, is extremely rare. It’s important to protect the integrity of our elections, but we can’t let false allegations and exaggerated claims of voter fraud keep West Virginians from voting.
We’ve said it before. Bills like HB 4675 are a solution looking for a problem.
Tell them voter fraud is unacceptable, but we must find solutions that address actual problems instead of imposing policies that make it harder to participate in our democracy.