By LACIE PIERSON
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It took less than an hour of examination for members of the Judiciary Committee in the GOP-led West Virginia House of Delegates on Wednesday to determine that a bill that would alter a voter registration and identification law needed more work than committee members could complete in a single meeting.
If signed into law, House Bill 2781 would end automatic voter registration through the West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and require state- or federal-issued forms of photo identification to vote in the Mountain State.
After committee members questioned legal counsel and DMV officials during the meeting Wednesday morning, committee chairman Del. John Shott, R-Mercer, ruled that there were too many unanswered questions about the bill. He referred it to a subcommittee for further study when the committee reconvened Wednesday afternoon.
The proposals in HB 2781 would bring state law closer to the 2016 version of the bill that was approved by the House, as it pertained to acceptable forms of voter identification. That year, the West Virginia Senate, which also has a GOP majority, expanded what forms of ID would be acceptable.
During the last night of the 2016 regular legislative session, conference committee members from the House and Senate agreed to keep the Senate’s version of the bill and added the opt-out voter registration provision to it.
The 2016 law required voters to show some form of identification before voting at their respective polling places, and it created the automatic voter registration system through the DMV. The 2016 law requires that voters be automatically registered if not already when renewing or applying for a driver’s license, unless a voter chooses to opt out of registration at that time.
The 2016 law created a list of acceptable forms of identification, which included state- and federal-issued identification, regardless of associated photo, including voter ID cards; any government permits; any college- or high school-issued ID; a health insurance card; a utility bill from six months prior to the election; a bank card or bank statement from six months prior to the election; or verification from another adult, including a poll worker who has known the voter for at least six months. The person who verifies a voter’s identity would have to sign an affidavit and provide his or her own photo identification.
HB 2781 also would establish the only acceptable forms of identification as those that include photos: a valid West Virginia driver’s license; a West Virginia DMV-issued photo ID card; a valid driver’s license issued in any other state; a valid U.S. passport; a valid federal or state government-issued employee identification card; and a valid U.S. military identification card.
The law still would allow for provisional ballots to be cast until election authorities can verify the identity of a voter without a valid photo ID and determine whether that person’s vote would be counted.
HB 2781 would establish an additional provision that would allow for people who object to the photo requirement because of religious beliefs to cast a provisional ballot.
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