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
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 trainingabout the nature and treatment of mental illness for justice system personnel involved in civil commitment in Virginia, support for mental health and drugcourts 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.
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
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.
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.
RACIAL JUSTICE FOR BLACK PEOPLE AND PEOPLE OF COLOR
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,
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”.
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 amendmentfor 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.
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.
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!
The League of Women Voters of Virginia formally celebrates and acknowledges June 19th as Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, or Emancipation Day– the oldest-known annual celebration of the ending of slavery in the United States. The holiday commemorates June 19, 1865, when the news finally reached African Americans in Gavelston, Texas that President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves living in Confederate states two years earlier. When Union soldiers arrived in Galveston to bring the news that slavery had been abolished, former slaves celebrated, and thus Juneteenth was born.
Earlier this week, Governor Ralph Northam proposed making Juneteenth an official state holiday beginning this year. We acknowledge our state’s confederate history and current climate of systemic injustice and discrimination. It is therefore vital we elevate awareness of this important piece of African American history as we continue to come to terms with the senseless murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the countless other black lives lost to anti-blackness and racial violence in America.
As we pay tribute today, we acknowledge the many roles and contributions of the African American spirit to the League and generally to our society, the countless supporters, organizers, and attendees of Juneteenth celebrations hosted all across this nation and beyond. You are writing the history of our country and our world – there can be no greater honor than that. We thank you.
As an organization whose mission is to empower voters, encourage political responsibility and defend democracy, we stand in solidarity with Black communities. and support protesters across our country who are currently fighting for widespread police reform in response to the pandemic of disproportionate police brutality on black and brown communities. We stand behind the demand for increased funding of healthcare, education, and housing in such communities. The League will show our solidarity, not only by speaking out against racism in all forms, but by doing the work and advocacy required of us to be anti-racist.
Today is a day for celebration, education, and correction. We will take it as such, and ask all members to do the same. Sensitized to the conditions and experiences of others, only then can we begin to effect significant and lasting improvements in our society. Examine how you can be an ally on this day. The voting rights advocacy community must not stay silent in the face of systemic injustice. We must act and speak in solidarity with the Black community and the movement for Black Lives. Fighting for an educated, just future for all Americans includes speaking up for a just, nondiscriminatory, participatory democracy without system race-based outcomes and violence. Being silent is not an option. Black lives matter today, and every day. Happy Juneteenth.
We thank Amir Methvin, LWV-VA intern and member, for her invaluable contribution in writing this statement.