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Voting needs to be fair and accessible for all Americans who qualify. And that’s why the bill that just passed in the Virginia House of Delegates to require proof of U.S. citizenship before Virginians can register to vote in state and local elections is so wrong.
Ever since the Supreme Court struck down the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, voting rights have been under attack. State legislatures shouldn’t get to choose their own electorates and disenfranchise their own citizens. But that’s precisely what Virginia Bill House Bill 1598 could do.
The bill would require Virginians to prove citizenship with a birth certificate, passport, or naturalization document—even though there’s no credible evidence that non-citizens are even on the voting rolls in Virginia. The new requirement would force prospective Virginia voters to locate paperwork that many don’t have easily available, a restriction that is likely to discourage voting and registration.
The notion that people in the country illegally would put themselves at risk to vote in defies all logic, and echoes the absurd and unsubstantiated claims by President Trump that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election but somehow avoided all detection.
We’ve known for a long time that the true intent of discriminatory Voter ID laws is to prevent people of color and other under-represented Americans from being represented in our democracy. As the Brennan Center for Justice reports, at least 46 bills to restrict access to registration and voting have been introduced in 21 states in the recent past. Let’s hope that cooler heads prevail in the Virginia Senate.