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Cole bill reduces types of voter ID
Cole wants to eliminate some voter ID provisions

Date published: 11/24/2012

BY CHELYEN DAVIS

Did you use a utility bill, paycheck or bank statement as identification to vote two weeks ago?

You wouldn't be able to do so again, under a new bill filed this week for the 2013 General Assembly session.

The bill, from Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania, would remove from last year's voter ID law provisions that let voters show a utility bill, bank statement, government check or paycheck as proof of their identity.

Cole is chairman of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, which handles voting and elections issues. He was the primary House sponsor of the 2012 session's law that added new voter ID requirements, but didn't favor allowing so many documents to serve as identification; that, he said, came from the Senate version of the bill.

In a phone interview this week, Cole said he wasn't aware of any problems with voters using those documents to vote in the elections two weeks ago.

But, he said, he doesn't think things like utility bills and bank statements should be used as acceptable forms of ID.

"We'd be better off to pare down the list a little bit," Cole said.

He noted that Rep. Jim Moran's son, Patrick, had to resign from his work with his father's congressional campaign last month after an undercover video showed him talking to someone posing as a campaign worker about potential voter fraud using utility bills.

Cole has also filed another bill that would bar circuit courts from appointing as judges anyone whose judicial candidacy has already been rejected by the General Assembly.

In a tense late-night vote in early spring, the House of Delegates rejected openly gay prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland, a candidate for a general district judgeship in Richmond.

Conservative Republicans in the House said they objected to Thorne-Begland becoming a judge because of his activism for gay rights. They also objected to the fact that 20 years ago, as a naval officer, he came out on national television to object to the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Democrats said the vote against Thorne-Begland was blatant bigotry and discrimination.

After the legislature adjourned without filling that judicial vacancy, a Richmond circuit court appointed Thorne-Begland to fill the slot anyway. He will serve until the General Assembly's 2013 session--lawmakers would have to approve his appointment for him to serve longer.

Cole, who voted against appointing Thorne-Begland, said that was the only instance he recalls in which a circuit court did appoint a judicial nominee the legislature had rejected.

But, he said, the issue isn't specifically about Thorne-Begland.

"That incident just brought the problem to light," Cole said. "It's not directed to that specific case, but I just don't think circuit court judges should be able to appoint somebody the General Assembly has already rejected. That's kind of a slap in the face to the General Assembly."

Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028
Email: cdavis@freelancestar.com