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Attorney general moves to gut voter ID law

Virginia Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring says election officials cannot validate all forms of identification.
Virginia Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring says election officials cannot validate all forms of identification.Photo by Jay Paul/Getty Images

Arguing that it’s impossible for election officials to validate every form of identification, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring moved to gut the state’s voter ID law Tuesday.

State Sen. Mark Obenshain, author of the photo ID law enacted by the 2013 General Assembly, accused the Democrat of “subordinating impartial legal analysis to the advancement of a political agenda.”

The State Board of Elections opened the door for Herring when it ruled in June that expired identifications could be accepted at the polls. Under heavy criticism for acting without public input, the board is reconsidering that policy.

But Herring, who beat Obenshain by a bare 907 votes in last November’s attorney general race, advised the SBE that insisting on the validity of IDs was unconstitutional.

“The Attorney General’s Office has adopted the novel idea that unless officers of election can screen out all possible invalid IDs, they can’t be permitted to determine the validity of any identification document, even if it’s plainly expired or otherwise invalid,” said Obenshain.

The crux of Herring’s argument is that it’s not possible for election officers to validate every form of ID. For instance, they cannot query the DMV database to ensure a license hasn’t been revoked.

“Such analysis flies in the face of both law and reason, and would lead to countless absurdities if taken to its logical conclusion in other circumstances where the government requires ID,” Obenshain argued.

Obenshain and Herring are likely gubernatorial contenders in 2017.

Meantime, Obenshain said the Democrat “is laying the groundwork for challenging the constitutionality of Virginia’s photo ID law.”

“It is manifestly not the job of the attorney general to manufacture challenges to laws he is sworn to defend,” Obenshain said.