VA bill to require proof of citizenship for voting registration passes House

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - The next time you want to register to vote, you may have to bring your birth certificate with you.

A bill passed the house of delegates Wednesday that would require state registrars to ask for proof of citizenship, instead of just a photo ID.

It's an idea that's getting mixed reactions from legislators that represent the Star City.

House Bill 1598 was approved by Delegates Wednesday in a landslide, with 64 in favor and 33 against.

That's because, according to voting advocate Shawn Hunter, it's just common sense.

"If an officer pulls you over, and you don't have a driver's license, that means that I'm driving illegally. That's the same thing with the voting process. If you don't have the proper documentation to prove that you are qualified to vote, you shouldn't be able to vote," said Hunter.

Hunter says requiring a birth certificate, passport, or naturalization papers helps preserve the integrity of the process.

Delegate Greg Habeeb, who voted for the bill, says it also sets up a check against fraudulent voting that may not exist anywhere else.

"There is evidence that this administration isn't checking citizenship against the national databases, and so if they're not going to do it, then we have to check it at some point," said Habeeb.

But Delegate Sam Rasoul, who voted against it, says it sets up an unnecessary barrier that could keep eligible voters away from the polls.

"There are many people who were maybe born in the 30's, even 40's, who are, can't either find or get access to even their birth certificate obviously, and they maybe never had a passport, so this would certainly put them in a bind. So yet again creating even more hurdles for people to vote when it should be a basic currency of democracy," said Rasoul.

Hunter says he doesn't agree with that argument, saying he wants safeguards that would protect him as a voting advocate.

"One of the questions that I ask them, are they a U.S. Citizen? And before they sign that document, they tell me yes, because if they lie it's a felony, then I'm turning in some fraudulent paperwork," says Hunter.

Hunter also says the paperwork shouldn't cause anyone an issue, because they have a long time until the mid-term elections.

"You have until 2018 to register, so therefore if you don't have your paperwork right now, you've got plenty of time to go and get it right," said Hunter.

If passed, the bill would only apply to state elections.

To vote for federal positions, like President of the United States, you still only need your drivers license.