Commending Governor Northam on Voter Protection Proposals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 18, 2020
Richmond, VA

EMPOWERING VOTERS. DEFENDING DEMOCRACY.

Today, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam made recommendations aimed at supporting the health and safety of voters and poll workers during the pandemic.

“We commend the Governor on his elections proposals and urge the General Assembly to adopt them,” said Deb Wake, president of League of Women Voters of Virginia. “Voters should not need to choose between their health and their right to vote, a cornerstone of our democracy. Secure and flexible access to voting will preserve public health and safety.”

The governor’s plan to permit voters to deposit their absentee ballots in secure drop boxes will preserve voter health. More than 30 states now permit voters to deposit their ballots in strong, tamperproof drop boxes. 

The League also supports the governor’s proposal for prepaid return postage on absentee ballots, and budget provisions that will enable absentee voters to correct errors on their ballots. These recommendations will help ensure that all voters can make their voices heard at the polls.

The League of Women Voters of Virginia strongly supports these important measures for access to voting and urges the General Assembly to adopt them. 

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The League of Women Voters was founded in 1920 when U.S. women won the right to vote.  We work to encourage informed and active participation in government and to influence public policy through education and advocacy.  The League is dedicated to empowering voters and defending democracy.  We are proud to be nonpartisan, neither supporting nor opposing candidates or political parties at any level of government, always working on vital issues of concern to members and the public.

For more information, visit the League of Women Voters of Virginia at lwv-va.org and on social media @lwvva and @leagueofwomenvoters.

Copyright © 2020 League of Women Voters of Virginia. All rights reserved.
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Legislative Priorities: Supporting Justice

Governor Northam is calling a Special Session of the Virginia General Assembly in order to adopt a revised budget in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and propose criminal justice and policing reforms. 

The legislature will convene August 18, 2020, after the governor’s end-of-fiscal-year report to the General Assembly’s money committees. The Special Session may extend into early September.

Contact your state legislators and ask them to support legislation on matters important to you! Find contact information for your state Delegate and state Senator at whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov. You may also submit comments to .

The League of Women Voters of Virginia will evaluate bills legislators plan to file in the Special Session with League Positions from Study. See Impact on Issues and Positioned for Action for further details on League Positions. Tentative priorities are set forth below. It appears League Positions also support two bills proposed by the Virginia COVID-19 Justice Coalition, of which the League is a member. 

Bills that will be filed in the Special Session by the state Senate majority are listed here. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus has listed priorities here. The state House of Delegates is convening hearings led jointly by its Public Safety and Courts of Justice Committees and reviewing public comments. As of this printing, two hearings can be viewed on archived video— here and here.

Currently, the League of Women Voters of Virginia expects to prioritize the following announced bills. As bills are filed in the coming weeks, priorities may be adjusted accordingly. 

  •  Prohibit Hiring of Officers Fired or Resigned During Use of Force Investigations
  •  Ban Sex by Law Enforcement With Arrested Individuals 
  •  Create a Decertification Procedure for Law Enforcement Officers
  •  Create Duty to Intervene by Fellow Law Enforcement Officers
  •  Require Departments to Create a Use of Force Continuum
  •  Require Comprehensive Reporting by Law Enforcement Agencies Including Use of Force Data
  • Cancel HB599 Funding for Local Police With Disproportionate Use of Force Incidents 
  • Create Local Authority for a Marcus Alert System to Report Acute Mental Health Crises
  • Create Local Option for Citizen Review Board to Investigate, Fire, Discipline Officers
  • Enhance Courts’ Ability to Expunge Dismissed Charges, Substance Convictions & Pardoned Offenses
  • Eliminate Commonwealth’s Right to Jury Trial When Jury Trials Suspended for Emergency
  • Revise the System of Credits for Good Behavior by Those Incarcerated; see this bill from last session 
  • Discretion for Compassionate Release of Terminally Ill or Permanently Disabled Prisoners
  • Sentence Reductions in Pandemics, With the Release of Vulnerable Populations.

In addition, the League continues to elevate longtime priorities such as opposing cash bail, supporting alternatives to incarceration, and attention to behavioral health. Mental health priorities include training about the nature and treatment of mental illness for justice system personnel involved in civil commitment in Virginia, support for mental health and drug courts to avoid inappropriate entry into the criminal justice system and provide needed treatment, and expansion of Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) programs.

In terms of Voting & Elections priorities for the Special Session, several are relevant to the budget, COVID-19, and Justice. In particular, the League supports measures to making voting more accessible to all populations. Topics include support for secure absentee ballot drop boxes, permitting first-time voters who registered by mail to return a copy of their ID with any first ballot they cast by mail, and provision of prepaid postage on return ballot envelopes sent to requesting absentee voters throughout the Commonwealth instead of only in certain areas. 

 

Regular Session

Looking ahead to the Regular Session in Spring 2021, the League has developed the following draft priority list:

  • Voting at Home
  • Preclearance at the state level of practices restricted under the federal Voting Rights Act
  • Redistricting process improvement via constitutional amendment and enabling legislation
  • Election Integrity & Security: Replace VERIS with a system that produces a voter-verifiable paper trail and is secure, accurate, recountable, accessible and transparent.
  • Campaign Finance Reform:
    • Public financing of state office candidates
    • Improved transparency
    • An effective oversight and enforcement agency
    • Limit contributions by individuals, corporations, and political parties. A summary of other states’ legislation on the latter is available here
  • Environmental Conservation:
    • Money in politics— including elimination of the ability of energy providers to use captive ratepayers’ utility payments for political contributions
    • Transportation: attention to renewable energy for transportation solutions
    • Energy Economy: clear air & water; reduce detrimental energy policy impacts on ratepayers
  • 100% Right to Vote constitutional amendment

A continuing priority is Education and Sexual Harassment Training in the Workplace. The Elections and Affordable Housing Studies are continuing and we look forward to the results of those workgroups.

 

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Racial Justice Resolution passed at LWVUS Convention, June 2020

URGENT RESOLUTION

RACIAL JUSTICE FOR BLACK PEOPLE AND PEOPLE OF COLOR

  1. Whereas, the deaths of George Floyd and countless other Black people have
    focused our nation’s attention on continuing structural and systemic racism in law
    enforcement and the justice system; and,
  2. Whereas, Black people and all historically marginalized people of color are
    disproportionately criminalized and targeted by excessive force and brutality by
    law enforcement; and,
    3. Whereas, delegates to the 2020 League of Women Voters (League) Convention
    are outraged by these injustices in law enforcement that unfairly target Black
    people and all people of color; and,
    4. Whereas, we have a crisis as a result of racism and socio-economic inequalities
    that have marginalized, discriminated against and harmed Black people and all
    people of color. Education, housing, employment, healthcare and every aspect
    of American life1 have been impacted; and,
    5. Whereas, the League acknowledges painfully that America is a nation founded
    on racism.2 We must work to end white privilege and dispel the myth of white
    supremacy if we are to become the nation we pledge3 to be; and,
    6. Whereas, the League commemorates the centennial of our organization and
    passage of the 19th Amendment, we recognize the courage, persistence and
    vision of our founding members. Yet, our past has been marred by racism and it
    is time to acknowledge this so that we can continue to work toward being
    Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive, (DEI)4; and,
    7. Whereas, the League believes in individual liberties, civil rights, human rights,
    and voting rights writ large; we defend democracy and oppose all threats to these
    constitutional rights5; therefore,
    8. We Resolve First, That the League advocates against systemic racism in the
    justice system and, at a minimum, to prevent excessive force and brutality by law
    enforcement. We also call for prompt actions by all League members to
    advocate within every level of government to eradicate systemic racism, and the
    harm that it causes; and,
    9. We Resolve Second, That the League help our elected officials and all
    Americans recognize these truths to be self-evident; that Black people and all
    people of color deserve equal protection under the law; and that we demand
    solutions for the terrible wrongs done to Black people and all people of color
    across the nation so that, regardless of race, racial mixture, ethnicity, religion,
    disabilities, gender or sexual orientation we may truly become a nation
    “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.

  1. See LWVUS Position on Equality of Opportunity, Pgs. 8 & 10, Impact on Issues 2018-2020/Equality of Opportunity,
  2. May 29, 2020 LWVUS Response to Police Killing of George Floyd,
  3. Pledge of Allegiance
  4. See Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy,
  5. See LWVUS Position on Individual Liberties, Pgs. 7 & 31, Impact on Issues 2018-2020/Individual Liberties, 
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New Voting & Elections Laws took effect July 1, 2020

No Excuse Absentee Voting, HB 1 (Herring), HB 207 (VanValkenburg), SB 11 (Howell)

  • Allows any voter qualified to vote in an election to vote absentee without an excuse.

Redistricting Constitutional Amendment, SJ18 (Barker), and Criteria Bill, SB717 (McClellan) / HB1255 (Price)

  • Virginia’s election maps are gerrymandered. Virginia’s Constitution allows legislators to draw boundaries that ensure they are reelected.  Legislators are able to use detailed voter data in selecting their own constituents. Last year, after extensive negotiation, Virginia’s legislature passed a constitutional amendment for a redistricting commission of 8 legislators and 8 citizens, with a citizen chair. Virginia’s legislature passed the constitutional amendment the requisite second time this session, along with criteria legislation from Senator Jennifer McClellan and Delegate Cia Price. The Senate vote was 38 – 2, and the House vote was 46 – 43. The General Assembly also passed a ballot referendum which will put the matter before voters in the November general election.

Expand Accepted IDs; Eliminating Photo ID Requirement HB19 (Lindsey), HB213 (Sullivan), SB65 (Locke)

  • HB19 and SB65 eliminate, for most qualified voters, the requirement to provide photo identification at the polls
  • HB213 adds to the list of acceptable forms of voter ID a valid student photo ID card issued by any institution of higher education in any other state or territory of the United States

Repealing Race Based Restrictions on Voting, HB1086 (Price), SB555 (Spruill)

  • Repeals laws that were still on the books relating to voting restrictions, poll taxes, and registration records separated on the basis of race

Automatic Voter Registration, HB235 (J. Cole), SB219 (Marsden)

  • Gives visitors to the Department of Motor Vehicles the choice to opt out of registering to vote instead of an opt in to filling out a voter registration application.

Election Day Holiday, HB108 (Lindsey), SB610 (Lucas)

  • Designates Election Day, the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, as a state holiday and removes Lee-Jackson Day as a state holiday.

High School Voter Registration, HB1491 (Guy)

  • Requires every public high school to give students, who are eligible to register to vote, access to registration information and applications, or access to the online registration system, and the opportunity to apply during the school day.

 

Same Day Registration & Voting, HB201 (Ayala), delayed effective date of July 1, 2022.

  • Will let qualified voters register and vote on the same day if they provide proof of residency. 
  •  
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Action Alert_ Ask your US Senator to support VRAA

This year, the League of Women Voters marks its 100th anniversary and 100 years since passage of the 19th Amendment. Today, summon this legacy of success and contact your legislators to protect voting rights.
 
Call to Action! The League of Women Voters of the United States has asked us all to take part in a “Virtual Lobby Day” today, Thursday, June 25, in support of the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA).

The Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 holds states to follow specific requirements when conducting elections for federal offices. The original Act had a critical tool that requires states with a history of suppressing the vote of racial, ethnic, or language minorities to “pre-clear” changes in key voting laws and practices with the US Department of Justice or the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

In 2013, the Supreme Court stripped away these key protections that had reduced discrimination, particularly against Black voters. The Shelby v. Holder decision suspended pre-clearance. States rapidly started purging qualified voters, adopting restrictive voter ID laws, closing polling places, enacting onerous requirements for voting, and gerrymandering with abandon.

It’s past time for Congress to update and restore the Voting Rights Act, including the critical pre-clearance requirement. Ask your Senators to pass S.561, the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019. 

Status: the VRAA passed the House of Representatives in December. Now is the Senate’s turn.  
 

WHAT ACTIONS CAN I TAKE ON JUNE 25?

1. Email your Senators using our Action Alert!

2. Call your Senators and ask them to support and pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act

3. Tweet at your Senators (find sample posts & graphics here)

4. Participate in our Twitter Storm between 2-3pm ET (find sample posts & graphics here)

You can find information and Talking Points in the US League’s toolkit here.

After contacting your legislator, report your advocacy here.

League policy is that members do not speak for the League.
 
“Only the President or her designee is authorized to speak for the League. However, we encourage all members to contact their public officials as individuals, whether or not they agree with a League position.”
Contact Virginia’s U.S. Senators

Mark Warner
Washington, DC office phone: (202) 224-2023
Virginia office phones and addresses: here
Email: use this form on the Senator’s website 

Tim Kaine
Washington, DC office phone: (202) 224-4024
Virginia office phones and addresses: kaine.senate.gov
Email: use this form kaine.senate.gov/contact

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June 23, 2020 Primary Election

Tuesday, June 23 is Federal Primary Election Day for Virginia. If you haven’t voted Absentee, vote at your assigned polling location on Tuesday between 6am and 7pm. Some polling locations have changed temporarily due to COVID concerns–you should have received a notice from your local registrar if your polling location changed and you can check your registrar’s website. You must show a valid photo ID, like a Driver’s license. More details on candidates at VOTE411. Stay safe!

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