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SBE Sec’y: Obtaining a Voter Photo ID Is Easy

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Virginia State Board of Elections Secretary Donald Palmer posted an op-ed yesterday stressing how easy it should be to obtain a free photo ID from your registrars office and providing a number to call if you have problems.  Here is a link and the article is set forth below.  You can use it to help advance your case with reluctant registrars.

Photo ID is quick, easy, and accessible to all voters of the Commonwealth – No voter will be left behind.
Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2014 2:00 am
By Donald Palmer
Palmer is Secretary of the State Board of Elections.

This note is in response to Dan Casey’s story (“Photo IDs may hamper senior voting,” July 22) chronicling the DMV experience of an elderly voter, Ann Trapani, with the update of her driver’s license to a Commonwealth ID card. It is unfortunate she did not have all the information on the availability and ease in obtaining free photo IDs. The main priority of Virginia election officials is making the voting experience fully accessible to all citizens. Obtaining a new photo ID is free, easy and accessible to all citizens and no voter should be left behind. Use of the latest technology allows us to facilitate voters twho have hearing, visual, cognitive, or mobility impairments and other difficulties.

I can assure you that the elections community wants voters to be fully informed about all the options available to register, vote, and easily obtain a free photo ID. Because the photo ID production system uses the latest technology, the process is quick and easy, and designed to accommodate elderly voters and voters with disabilities. The application process was specifically reviewed with state agencies and other organizations who work with citizens with disabilities and with an eye toward maximizing its accessibility to voters.

While the experience at the DMV often includes a commitment of time and effort, the experience of Ann Trapani may not have been necessary at all. Elderly voters over the age of 70 who are initially replacing their driver’s license are eligible for a free Commonwealth ID that can be obtained in an online transaction with no additional documentation and mailed to the citizen.

There is another option available for elderly voters who may not need a driver’s license and do not have other acceptable forms of photo ID for voting purposes. The voter may simply request a free voter photo ID from their local general registrar (or satellite office) that are located in each of Virginia’s 133 localities. As with voting or registering to vote, those voters with an inability to read, write or fully complete a form due to a disability or other impairment, may receive assistance from election officials or other person in completing the process. The photo ID application form is also online and accessible to visually disabled voters with text-to-speech enabled internet browsers. General registrars and ready to assist voters with special needs, just as they do with the voting experience, testing and setting up accessible voting equipment or curbside voting.

The technical capability to produce free photo IDs will have a mobile functionality that will allow election officials to assist in the community upon request and provide registration and other services to voters and organizations. The mobility of the voter photo ID production system can be used throughout the state with secure internet connection, Wi-Fi network, or other mobile hot spot with a static IP address. And for those areas without internet or phone service, there will be an off-line functionality to capture the necessary data for ID production. All that is required to produce the free voter photo ID is a picture of the registered voter, a signature and the voter photo ID is quickly processed and sent by mail to the voter. For those facing rapidly approaching deadlines, a temporary voter photo ID is available to voters.

The Elections Department will continue to produce free photo IDs for voters out of our office in Richmond, and with outreach to retirement facilities, aging or nursing homes and continuing care communities. There is a dedicated accessibility coordinator to facilitate this process for elderly or disabled voters who need a free photo ID and other important voting services. State officials will partner with the 133 general registrar offices to provide photo ID services to the elderly or voters with disabilities in their respective communities. While election officials may not be aware of everyone’s individual circumstances and needs, our message to the public is that we are here to provide prompt information and efficient assistance to our important customers, the voters of the Commonwealth. If you have questions or specific request for assistance or photo ID outreach or production, please contact Terry Wagoner (Accessibility Coordinator) at 804-864-8937.