RICHMOND, Va. (CN) - Democrats challenging Virginia's new voter photo I.D. law can inspect correspondence between lawmakers and lobbyists and others, a federal judge ruled.
The law, signed by former Governor Bob McDonnell in 2013, requires all voters to provide photo I.D. at the polls. Lawmakers who supported the law claimed it helped prevent fraud in elections.
But black and Latino Democrats, as well as voting rights activists Barbara Lee and Gonzalo Aida, claimed in court that the law is nothing more than a bald-faced attempt to keep young people and minorities from participating in elections.
Backed in their claims by the state Democratic party, opponents of the I.D. requirement point to low voter turnout in Kansas and Tennessee, which have similar laws, to make underpin their arguments.
The plaintiffs asked the court to compel House Speaker William Howell, Sen. Mark Obenshain (the bill's original sponsor), and 23 other Republican lawmakers to turn over documents related to the law so that they can understand the "legislative intent" behind its passage.
Although internal correspondence and personal notes between lawmakers and staffers are exempt from release, emails and other exchanges with third parties such as lobbyists, constituents and state agencies are fair game, U.S. District Judge Roderick Young wrote in his ruling.
"The nonparty legislators and the legislative employees may not claim legislative privilege with regard to communications made to or from third parties because the involvement of third parties inherently destroyed any privilege that may or may not have existed," Young wrote.
The plaintiffs are represented by Marc Erik Elias of Perkins Coie LLP in Washington, D.C.
Representatives of the parties have not responded to a request for comment from Courthouse News.