A House Judiciary Subcommittee reconsidered a bill Thursday that barely made it through the legislative process on the final night of the 2016 session.
That bill required West Virginians to bring some form of identification with them when they go to cast a ballot at their polling place. It also set up an automatic voter registration process between the Secretary of the State’s office and the Division of Motor Vehicles.
Delegates initially intended to gut parts of that law altogether this year, but have since worked on a compromise.
As introduced, House Bill 2781 got rid of the automatic voter registration system altogether and removed a large number of the allowable forms of ID, including a health insurance card, birth certificate, and several others. Those two provisions were pushed by Democratic members of the Legislature during the 2016 session.
Thursday morning, a House Judiciary subcommittee, led by Republican Delegate Mark Zatezelo of Hancock County, met to negotiate the bill’s provisions. The subcommittee’s version of the bill puts all of the ID options back in, and it also reinstates the required automatic voter registration system.
Zatezelo says, however, their bill pushes back the effective date one full year.
“We want to make sure the DMV is ready for July 1, 2019," Zatezelo noted, "And so, we will put into this bill [a] proviso that they be ready with their new software by July 1, 2018. That gives them a year to work all the bugs out and do that type of thing; we feel it’s fair.”
Zatezelo also says the bill makes it clear that if someone doesn’t want to register to vote when they go to the DMV, their information won’t automatically be sent to the Secretary of State’s office.
The single Democrat on the Judiciary subcommittee is Delegate Chad Lovejoy of Cabell County. He says he’s very pleased with the compromised version of the bill.
“I think the bill has been greatly enhanced by the work of the subcommittee," Lovejoy said, "You know, as we approached it, there were two kind of major concerns with bringing it back up. One was changing the IDs, the list of IDs that were negotiated last year as part of the legislation, and the second, were, what could be perceived as attempts to roll back the automatic voter registration.”
Lovejoy says he anticipates wide support from his party when this bill comes to the floor. House Bill 2781 will now go before the full Judiciary committee for further consideration.