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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Redistricting FAQ

Why LWV-VA Supports Constitutional Amendment S.J. 18 to End Partisan Gerrymandering 

What is independent redistricting and why is it needed? Redistricting is the process of drawing maps to determine election districts for members of Congress and the state legislature. In many states, the legislature wields the power to draw these maps. When one party controls this process, it can rig the maps to stay in power by choosing the electorate in each district (“gerrymandering”). 

Gerrymandering weakens voters’ voices. It carves up communities, removes competition, increases polarization, and creates gridlock. Redistricting works better when voters get more of a say. 

Why Virginia needs a Constitutional Amendment now for fair redistricting. Virginia’s election maps are gerrymandered. Virginia’s constitution gives only legislators the power to draw the election maps. Only a constitutional amendment can change the constitution and let citizens serve on a redistricting commission. A mere law (legislation) cannot amend the constitution. 

Last year, after extensive negotiation, Virginia’s legislature passed a constitutional amendment (“CA”) to establish a better way: a commission of 8 legislators and 8 citizens, with a citizen chair. 

Timing is critical. Redistricting in Virginia usually occurs only once every ten years. In order to enact the amendment before the next ten-year redistricting in early 2021, the constitutional amendment must pass again this legislative session and then go before voters on the ballot in November. 

Why the League of Women Voters of Virginia supports the Constitutional Amendment, SJ 18 / HJ 71

  • The Amendment gives citizens a voice in the Virginia redistricting process for the first time. Protectionist maps help legislators keep their seats. Citizens don’t have that conflict of interest. 
  • The Amendment for the first time requires that lines be drawn in accordance with specific “laws that address racial and ethnic fairness,” avoiding harm to our communities and Virginia. 
  • Redistricting decisions will be brought into the light, not hidden away in dark, secret backrooms. 

What do the accompanying bills do? 

  • Senate bill 203 creates criteria for drawing maps, such as ensuring the votes of racial or language minorities are not diluted, preserving communities of interest, and avoiding lines that favor parties or politicians or divide towns. 
  • Senate bill 204 directs the Court to appoint a citizen “special master” to assist in redistricting. 

Shouldn’t we try for a better commission, without legislators? This is the only amendment available to be passed this year, before the decennial redistricting and the next House election. We need to pass it while the window of opportunity is open. 

Should voters be concerned about Virginia’s Supreme Court? Accompanying legislation (SB204) requires the court to appoint a citizen special master to draw the maps. Virginia’s justices are bound by canons of judicial ethics and were appointed by Democrat, as well as Republican, controlled legislative chambers. 

Who supports S.J. 18? Respected voices include the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, Senator Tim Kaine and Rep. Don Beyer, and the editorial boards of the Richmond Times-Daily and the Virginian-Pilot. Importantly, 70% of Virginians support redistricting reform, according to a recent poll by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Virginia. 

The eyes of the nation are on Virginia. Without the constitutional amendment, the very next statehouse election, in 2021, could bring in a legislature that would reverse any mere laws. An amendment is the only vehicle strong enough to start real change and ensure fair elections. 

The League of Women Voters of Virginia stands up for voters. 

The League fully supports SJ 18 and HJ 71. 

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Jan 12, 2020 Action Alert: Fair Redistricting, No Excuse Absentee Voting, & Gun Violence Prevention

Virginia’s legislative session is underway! Contact your lawmakers now to support fair redistricting, no excuse absentee voting, and gun violence prevention. You can modify your message before sending.

To review the bills: 

🔸 Fair redistricting        SJ 18, SB 203, 204 / HJ 71, HB 758

🔸 No excuse absentee voting  SB 45, 111, 879 / HB 1, 25, 27

🔸 Gun violence prevention     SB 70 , 240 / HB 2, 674

For more info: 

🔸 Redistricting

🔸 No Excuse Absentee Voting, p.4 

🔸 Gun Violence Prevention

Alternatively, visit whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov for your lawmaker’s contact information and then email them a request to support these bills. Let them know you are a constituent, and your address. You can note points such as:

🔸 The fair redistricting amendment, SJ18 / HJ71, will finally give citizens a voice and add racial and ethnic fairness. 

– The guardrail bills, SB 203 & 204 / HB 758, make it even stronger. 

– Only an amendment can change the constitution. A law doesn’t have that power.

🔸 Voting is every citizen’s honor and responsibility. Being required to state an excuse for absentee voting deters voters. Please copatron and vote for no excuse absentee voting bills SB 45, 111, 859, 879 / HB 1, HB 25, HB 27.

🔸 We need common sense gun safety. Please especially cosponsor and vote for SB 70 / HB 2, for universal background checks, and SB240 / HB 674, extreme risk protection order / red flag legislation.

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Dec 30, 2019 Contact Your Legislators: Support Fair Redistricting

Now is the time to add your voice for the Equal Rights Amendment.

The League of Women Voters of the U.S. supports the Equal Rights Amendment (“ERA”), as set forth in this letter.

Please contact your lawmakers now for the ERA.

🔸 Virginia legislation: HJ 1, SJ 1, & SJ 5

🔸 Questions? See the U.S. League letter

🔸 Newly elected legislator? See “Special Cases” below

🔸 All others, click here to support the ERA

Alternatively, visit whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov for your lawmaker’s contact information and then email them a request to support the ERA this session. Let them know you are a constituent, and your address. You can point out:

  • Virginia General Assembly bills for ratification of the ERA are HJ 1 and SJ 1.
  • 80% of Virginia’s registered voters support ratification, according to a poll by the Wason Center for Public Policy, https://cnu.edu/wasoncenter/surveys/2019-12-16/
  • The U.S. Constitution does not guarantee equal rights without discrimination based on sex. The Equal Rights Amendment will help ensure that the government discriminates based on sex only when it has compelling reasons. As stated by the American Bar Association, this will “assure that gender equality is recognized as a fundamental, irrevocable right protected by the highest law of the land.”
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The time is now for People-Powered Fair Maps©!

Chris DeRosa
Co-chair LWV-VA Redistricting Committee

In the next 3 months, the Virginia General Assembly will have the opportunity to take a huge step towards ending gerrymandering in the Commonwealth. We are very close!

Gerrymandering rigs the system. It robs the citizens of fair representation. It allows legislators to draw maps to protect their own seats. It allows them to choose their voters, rather than the voters choosing their representatives. Gerrymandering is voter suppression and must end now.

In 2019, the General Assembly passed Senate Joint Resolution 306, a constitutional amendment*, with strong bipartisan support. The General Assembly must pass the constitutional amendment once again, in its entirety, with nary a comma nor word substituted or deleted, in the 2020 session before it comes to the voters for approval in November 2020. Once Virginia voters approve the constitutional amendment at the polls, it will set the stage for the drawing of fair maps in 2021 after the 2020 census. According to the recent Wason Center Poll conducted by Christopher Newport University, 70% of Virginians support passing the constitutional amendment a second time.

The constitutional amendment may not be perfect; few, if any, bills or amendments are. However, there are many important features that merit our approval:

  • For the first time, citizens will serve on the commission that draws the maps. Eight members of the sixteen-member commission will be non-politicians. One of the citizen-members will serve as the commission chair. A super-majority of at least 6 (of 8) citizen members plus 6 (of 8) legislator members must approve the maps that are drawn.
  • For the first time, transparency will be required of the commission and its decisions. Redistricting decisions will be brought out into the light, not hidden away in dark, secret backrooms. All meetings shall be open to the public, and at least three public hearings must be held in different parts of the Commonwealth. All records, documents, and internal and external communications shall be available to the public. 
  • The maps drawn by the commission will be submitted to the General Assembly, which will vote “yea” or “nay”; the General Assembly may not amend the maps.

[CONTINUED FROM NEWSLETTER]

Criteria contained in the amendment include “contiguous and compact territory” and “representation in proportion to the population of the district”. Maps must be “drawn in accordance with the requirements of federal and state laws that address racial and ethnic fairness, including the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment … and provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.” The maps shall provide “opportunities for racial and ethnic communities to elect candidates of their choice.” (note: bolded quotations are the new language that would be added to Article II, Section 6, of the Virginia Constitution). These requirements will be protected and enshrined in the Constitution and cannot be easily changed when political leadership changes.

Enabling legislation that clearly defines the criteria is necessary. The League of Women Voters of Virginia supports criteria legislation that:

  • Requires maps that:
    •  respect geographic and jurisdictional boundaries, as well as communities of interest;
    • result in competitive elections;
    • do not favor one political party over another; and
    • protect the voting strength of minority groups;
  • Establishes criteria for selecting the citizen commissioners, including the representation that reflects the diversity in our Commonwealth;
  • Directs the Supreme Court of Virginia to appoint a qualified special master to draw the maps, should the Commission and the General Assembly fail to draw and approve maps.

We are heading in the right direction. The eyes of the nation are on Virginia. Respected voices have expressed support for the Constitutional Amendment, including Michael Li of the Brennan Center, Common Cause, author David Daley, and Senator Tim Kaine.

There are legislators who are getting “cold feet” and walking back from their previous support of fair maps. Some seem tempted to keep their newly-gained power for themselves. They want voters to “trust” them to draw the maps. We do not support backing away from the constitutional amendment passed last session.

The time is NOW. Virginia is ready to show the nation what fair redistricting can look like. We need YOU to contact your legislators and urge them to support the Constitutional Amendment – and pass strong enabling legislation. Fair elections are under threat, and all of us are needed at this moment in history.

  • Many local Leagues have organized pre-session forums, and many of your legislators are scheduling their own town halls. Plan to attend and let your voice be heard! You can find a list of town halls here.  
  • Contact your lawmakers via email, phone calls, or postcards. Let them know that you support People-Powered Fair Maps© and that you want them to support this Constitutional Amendment when the General Assembly reconvenes in January 2020.
  • A very easy way to send an email is via the LWV-Virginia’s action alert: Just click here.  

Thank you for helping to make People-Powered Fair Maps© a reality in Virginia!

*A summary of the Constitutional Amendment can be found on the One Virginia 2021 website.

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Dec 17, 2019 Contact Your Legislators: Support Fair Redistricting

Contact Your Legislators: Support Fair Redistricting 

 

Fair elections are under threat, and all of us are needed at this moment in history. Please contact your lawmakers to support the redistricting amendment. You can click through here to send them a message you can modify before sending. 

 

Alternatively, visit whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov for your lawmaker’s contact information. Then, email them a request to vote for the redistricting amendment this session. Let them know you are a constituent and your address. 

 

Talking points:

 

  • This amendment is the first time citizens will be on the redistricting commission. Only an amendment can change the constitutional provision that lawmakers (not citizens) draw districts. 

 

  • An amendment must be passed two years in a row, and this is the last chance to get one in place before 2021.

 

  • 70% of Virginians support the second passage of the redistricting reform amendment, according to a poll from the Wason Center for Public Policy, and Mason-Dixon Polling shows 72% of registered Virginia voters support the proposed amendment.
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