Legislative Talking Points, 2020-21
- Convenient drop off locations for absentee ballots
- Dropping off ballots allows voting that is safe, secure, and convenient.
- Ballot drop off helps voters avoid lines at the polls.
- The boxes were already purchased for the November general election, so there is no additional cost.
- More than 30 states already have such laws or passed them due to the pandemic. Let’s make ballot drop off, which was temporarily passed in SB 5120 for the November election, permanent.
- Remove witness requirement for absentee ballots, SB 1097
- Witness signatures are not required in 39 states. The requirement is a barrier to voting.
- Absentee voting is secured in multiple ways, including:
- In Virginia, each absentee voter gave personal identification when registering to vote.
- Then, to vote absentee, the voter has to send personal info to identify themselves, and the ballot is sent to that voter’s individual address.
- The voter signs the envelope.
- Each ballot has an individual bar code on the envelope, and can be tracked by the voter as well as the Department of Elections.
- When the ballot is returned, it is recorded in the voter registration system so the voter cannot vote again. The voter has been identified, and has voted.
- Give absentee voters who make procedural errors an opportunity to correct them.
- Allowing voters to correct minor procedural errors is a way to let people make sure their vote counts. Otherwise, people do not find out they made an error until after the election, when it is too late.
- Eighteen other states require notification of voters about minor procedural errors, such as when a ballot envelope was not signed, and permit the voters to confirm that the ballot is theirs.
- Preclearance at the state level of practices restricted under the federal Voting Rights Act
- This law will help Virginia avoid making elections changes that would disenfranchise voters, such as restricting interpreter services. HB 1883 would accomplish this goal, and we are also reviewing HB 1890.
- Virginia is a former “preclearance” state under the federal Voting Rights Act. Localities were required to get clearance from the U.S. Justice Dept before election changes that could disenfranchise voters.
- In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act, so preclearance has stopped. Local election changes risk disenfranchising voters. Indeed, in former preclearance states, many voters have been losing their right to vote through illegal voter roll purges and other changes.
- Virginia should set up a “state level preclearance” process so major elections changes in former preclearance areas, such as moving a polling place far from public transportation, must be cleared first by state officials, such as the Attorney General or the Circuit Court in Richmond.
- “100% Right to Vote” Constitutional Amendment, SJ 272
- Every 18 year old Virginia citizen should have the right to vote.
- Virginia is one of only 5 states that take away people’s civil rights, including voting, when they are convicted of a felony, and does not automatically restore them after their release or parole or probation. The other 45 either do not take away rights, or restore them automatically once the person pays their debt to society.
- Felony disenfranchisement has a disproportionate impact on communities of color. According to the Sentencing Project:
|[B]lack Americans of voting age are more than four times as likely to lose their voting rights than the rest of the adult population, with one of every 13 black adults disenfranchised nationally. As of 2016, in … Virginia… more than one in five black adults was disenfranchised.|
- Campaign Finance Reform
Campaign finance laws protect representative democracy from distortion and add transparency so voters can make informed choices.
Unfortunately, Virginia’s campaign finance laws have been ranked 47th out of 50 in America.
- Virginia is one of only five states that do not limit contributions.
- Virginia does not prohibit candidates from using funds from their campaign and political action committees for their own personal expenses, in general.
- The ethics council and other entities do not have authority to enforce any consequences.
Urge your legislators to restore public faith in our democracy by:
- Sponsoring bills to study and adopt reforms. HJ526 would provide for a comprehensive study.
- Adopting public financing, like 14 other states.
- Limiting contributions from individuals, corporations, parties, and PACs. A full 45 out of the 50 states have such limits.
- Average campaign contribution limits in other states:
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- Even after the Supreme Court case McCutcheon v. FEC, the National Coalition of State Legislatures says states can still limit how much an individual can contribute to a specific campaign.
- Adopting reasonable spending limits. Other states tend to follow the federal model, prohibiting “personal use” of campaign funds.
- Give the ethics council or an independent oversight agency tools, such as subpoena power and compliance mechanisms, so they can conduct investigations and enforce consequences. “A strong independent ethics agency… ensures that government is representative, responsive, and accountable.”
Consider saying: “I urge [Delegate/Senate X] to ensure Virginia joins the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The goal of this compact is to ensure that every vote matters in presidential elections, so all voters have a fairly equal voice in the election. Will the [Delegate/Senator] cosponsor and vote for SB1101 and HB177?”
“The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact will guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Compact ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election. The Compact is a state-based approach that preserves the Electoral College, state control of elections, and the power of the states to control how the President is elected.
“The National Popular Vote bill has been enacted by 16 jurisdictions possessing 196 electoral votes…. The bill will take effect when enacted by states with 74 more electoral votes.”
Learn more at https://www.nationalpopularvote.com/written-explanation
- Increase Broadband Availability
Support additional broadband coverage within reach of Virginians. This is a matter of geographic equity in access for government, education, and economic opportunities. Children should not have to sit in a parking lot for wifi for homework.
In addition, laws and rules need to be changed so localities can install broadband without onerous requirements. For example, industry analysts state that Virginia Code sections 56-265.4:4, 56-484.7:1, 15.2-2108.6, and 15.2-2403 are prohibitively burdensome to municipalities that would like to provide their own broadband.