Polling procedures designed to encourage maximum voter participation will require only a fraction of Virginia, D.C. and Maryland voters to show proof of identification on Tuesday, raising concerns about voter fraud.
“It’s not a ‘gotcha’ type system. It’s not set to have policing of it all the time . . . By and large, the goal is for everybody to be honest actors, for everybody who registers to vote to be able to,” said Matt Robbins, spokesman for the Northern Virginia Republican Party.
Mr. Robbins said Virginia Republicans are concerned about duplicate and fraudulent voter registrations caused by Democrat-sponsored voter-registration pushes. The state received 130,566 new voter registrations from Sept. 2 to Oct. 4, bringing the number of state voters to 4.5 million. In the last month of registration in 2000, Virginia registered 77,011 new voters.
Republicans are questioning whether overwhelmed elections workers will enforce rules on Election Day to prevent voter fraud and voting by illegal immigrants.
Republicans plan to challenge voters, Mr. Robbins said, but not on the same scale as in battleground states such as Ohio and Florida, where the party already has filed thousands of challenges. Democrats, in turn, are accusing Republicans of trying to intimidate voters away from the polls.
First-time voters who registered by mail since Jan. 1, 2003, must show identification at polling places next week. Other voters might be asked for identification and will be allowed to vote if they are on the rolls and sign a pledge that they are who they say they are.
The requirements are the result of the 2002 Help America Vote Act, which Congress passed in response to the 2000 presidential election, which came down to a recount in Florida that was stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Picture identification or identification with a person’s name and address are acceptable.
“The ID requirement doesn’t apply to everybody. It’s not the majority of voters,” said Nikki Trella, director of voter reform at the Maryland State Board of Elections.
Elections officials said only identification issued by U.S. government agencies will be valid. Foreign documents such as passports issued by the Salvadoran consulate to immigrants in Herndon, and matricular consular cards issued by the Mexican government to immigrants will not be accepted at polling places.
Even if a first-time voter does not have identification with them on Election Day, all three local jurisdictions have special provisional ballots that can be filled out. The ballots are counted after the election if officials judge the ballot to be valid. Virginia is the only local jurisdiction that requires voters to provide their Social Security number, but it does not require voters to show their Social Security cards.
Poll workers “are sworn in to take an oath to uphold the law,” said Jean Jensen, secretary of the Virginia State Board of Elections. “There’s going to be huge turnout. In some localities, it may cause some lines . . . But the poll workers are going to process everything the way they’re supposed to process it. They have plenty of guidelines on how to handle things.”
But a push to register large numbers of new voters has Republicans questioning whether harried poll workers will stick to the letter of the law on a day when record turnout is expected.
“I don’t know that foreign passports will be recognized. I fully expect people to try it,” Mr. Robbins said.
Mr. Robbins said that Democrats have tried to register so many new voters that poll workers will not be able to handle them all and that pressure from teams of lawyers and observers, which both sides plan to have at the polls, will pressure them into accepting questionable voters.
“These things take time to be verified. They take an election official to be sharp and motivated and nonpartisan . . . [Democrats are] counting on the sheer busyness to discourage on-the-spot investigations or resolutions or challenges,” he said. “The temptation will be high to allow a lot of this to go by unchecked, and that’s what they’re counting on.”
Mr. Robbins said he sees evidence of voter manipulation and fraud on the voter rolls purchased from the state, which have been used by Republicans to call voters.
“There’s not a night that goes by that I don’t see the same names, same phone numbers, with different voter IDs on it,” he said. “They’re often foreign or immigrant names.”
Democrats, in return, charge that Republicans plan to intimidate low-income and immigrant voters away from polling places by standing outside and telling them things like, “Make sure nobody in your family is in jail. If you have any parking tickets. Are your electric bills late?” said Josh White, Democratic spokesman in Maryland.
Voter-identification cards, driver’s licenses, military IDs, Social Security cards, utility bills, bank statements or paychecks are all generally accepted forms of identification.
But the District’s guidelines state that any “valid and current photo identification” will be accepted, and in Maryland, student identification is acceptable.