For Immediate Release
August 5, 2014
Contact: Jared Walczak
Phone: 540.437.1451 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 540.437.1451 FREE end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Obenshain Blasts Herring’s Assault on Photo ID Law
Today, Senator Obenshain responded to new guidance from the Office of the Attorney General that subverts the plain meaning of legislation enacted by the General Assembly in 2013 by raising specious legal objections to requiring officers of election to reject plainly invalid IDs presented for voting purposes.
“Once again, Attorney General Herring’s office has subordinated impartial legal analysis to the advancement of a political agenda,” said Obenshain, asking, “Is this what Herring meant when he vowed to take the politics out of the Attorney General’s office?”
In 2013, the General Assembly enacted legislation requiring voters to show a valid form of photo identification, with provision for the issuance of a free voting-only photo ID for any Virginian in need of one. Earlier this summer, with the support of the Attorney General’s office and without any opportunity for public comment, the State Board of Elections exceeded its regulatory authority by embracing the novel idea that “valid” IDs included those that were plainly invalid (expired IDs, etc.).
When the State Board agreed to revisit its decision and consider an alternative definition of valid that comports with the plain meaning of the term, the Attorney General’s office advised the SBE, on the basis of a threadbare legal rationale, 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. “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.”
The crux of the OAG argument is that since it is not possible for an officer of election to identify every conceivable invalid ID—for instance, they cannot query the DMV database to ensure that a license has not been revoked—then, for equal protection purposes, they cannot make determinations about the validity of any ID.
“This is just the latest example of the executive branch blithely disregarding or disingenuously reinterpreting laws it doesn’t like,” said Obenshain. “This has become the norm in Washington; we shouldn’t allow the same thing to happen here in Virginia.”
“With this action, Herring is clearly laying the groundwork for challenging the constitutionality of Virginia’s photo ID law, which is supported by the vast majority of Virginians and is consistent with laws upheld in a long string of court cases,” said Obenshain. “It is manifestly not the job of the Attorney General to manufacture challenges to laws he is sworn to defend.”
“There may be a case to be made for accepting expired driver’s licenses for voting purposes. That’s a matter that the General Assembly can take up for consideration. But neither the State Board of Elections nor the Office of the Attorney General have the authority to substitute their judgment for that of the General Assembly, and the strained legal logic employed by Herring’s office does nothing to alter that fact,” concluded Obenshain.
Obenshain represents the 26th District in the Senate of Virginia. He is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections and was the Republican nominee for Attorney General in 2013.
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