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Federal judge upholds Virginia voter ID law

U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson ruled on Thursday that Virginia's voter ID law is constitutional, dealing a setback to opponents of the measure who say the law was intended to suppress Democratic voter turnout.

In his opinion, Hudson wrote that, "while the merits of this voter identification law, and indeed all aspects of Virginia's voting regime, can be reasonably debated, it remains true that Virginia has created a scheme of laws to accommodate all people in their right to vote."

Hudson continued: "From in-person voting, to an absentee option, to provisional ballots with the ability to cure [correcting for administrative or other errors] , and the provision of free voter IDs, Virginia has provided all of its citizens with an equal opportunity to participate in the electoral process."

According to the Virginia Department of Elections, voters can present a wide variety of government-issued identification cards, including those "issued by US Government, the Commonwealth of Virginia, or a political subdivision of the Commonwealth."

Students at Virginia's public and private universities and colleges may also use school-issued IDs. 

Voters may also present an "employee identification card containing a photograph of the voter and issued by an employer of the voter in the ordinary course of the employer’s business."

Hudson noted that "the Court's mission is to judge not the wisdom of the Virginia voter ID law, but rather its constitutionality," adding that the plaintiffs failed to meet the burden of proof "by a preponderance of the evidence" that the law violated the "Voting Rights Act, the Fourteenth Amendment, the Fifteenth Amendment, or the Twenty-Sixth Amendment."

Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) said in a press release after the ruling that the General Assembly "carefully crafted Virginia’s photo ID law to comply with previous Supreme Court rulings," and called Judge Hudson's decision "a victory for the integrity of Virginia’s elections and the three-quarters of Virginians who support our commonsense law."

Howell also took aim at Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, whose office would normally have defended the law in court, for recusing himself based on his past opposition to the law while a member of the Virginia Senate, and instead hiring outside counsel to represent the state.

Plaintiffs in the case are considering an appeal.

One of those plaintiffs, Democratic Party of Virginia chairwoman Susan Swecker issued a statement saying: "Virginia Republicans enacted Virginia's voter ID law for the sole purpose of making it more difficult to vote. These measures disproportionately affect minority, low-income, and older Virginians."

Swecker promised that "Democrats will continue to fight" for voting rights, and called any measure imposing a burden on voting "unAmerican and unconstitutional."