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House voter registration bill moves to second reading in Senate

After a weeklong stall for House Bill 2781 in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bill, which would extend the deadline for eliminating aspects of the automatic voter registration program, passed its first reading on the Senate floor.

Delegate Saira Blair

Delegate Saira Blair, R-Berkeley, sponsored the legislation. Delegates Mark Zatezalo, R-Hancock, Eric Householder, R-Berkeley, George Ambler, R-Greenbrier, Danny Hamrick, R-Harrison, Bill Anderson, R-Wood, Patrick Martin, R-Lewis, Zack Maynard, R-Lincoln, and Tony Lewis, R-Preston, co-sponsored the bill.

H.B. 2781 redefines the responsibility of the Division of Motor Vehicles concerning automatic voter registration: If passed, the bill would eliminate the DMV’s forwarding program that sends certain applicant information to the Secretary of State’s Office even if the applicant declines to register to vote.

As it stands in state code, the DMV is required to submit portions of each applicant’s profile to the Secretary of State regardless of their consent. If passed, the bill would eliminate this requirement completely by July 1, 2019, two years beyond its proposed deadline.

If the DMV is unable to meet the extended deadline, members of the division will meet with the Joint Committee of Government and Finance to address any shortcomings.

DMV representatives will be expected to meet with the joint committee by Jan. 1, 2018 to provide a detailed list of infrastructure necessary to implement the changes.

The H.B. 2781 committee substitute also re-established sections in the original text that had caused controversy in its debut, as it initially aimed to require voters to present photographic identification at a polling place.

Previously the proposed legislation suggested that poll clerks only accept certain forms of government-issued photographic identification, such as a driver’s license, passport, military identification and employee identification card give issued by any branch of state or federal government.

In its original form, the bill would have prevented voters from using student IDs from institutions of higher education or high schools in the state, concealed carry permit, birth certificates, hunting and fishing licenses, voter registration cards or a social security card.

Changes made to the voter registration section will become effective on July 1, 2019.

H.B. 2781 will be scheduled for its second reading on Friday.

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