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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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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JUDGE RULES IN FAVOR OF VIRGINIA VOTERS

Julia Tanner, LWV-VA Action

Ruling allows absentee voters to remain safe during COVID-19 pandemic

In a win for voting rights, a Lynchburg judge ruled today that absentee voters are relieved of the witness signature requirement for Virginia’s June 23 primaries. 

“We are pleased the court saw the pressing need for relief for Virginia voters,” said Deb Wake, president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia, which brought legal action challenging the witness requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Because of today’s decision, voters will be able to cast their ballots in safety without risking their health to locate a witness.”

Currently, Virginia voters choosing to vote absentee must open, mark, and refold their ballot in the presence of a witness, and then have the witness sign their ballot envelope. In light of COVID-19, this witness requirement would effectively bar many voters, including members of the League of Women Voters, from the ballot box, because the novel coronavirus is spread during close interpersonal contact. The witness rule jeopardized public health in exchange for access to voting, a pillar of our democracy.

Federal and state authorities support social distancing for public safety, including during elections. Virginia is under public health measures including a stay-at-home order and a self-quarantine recommendation for people over age 65. 

Judge Moon’s consent decree today accepts a settlement between the plaintiffs and Attorney General Mark Herring in connection with the June 23 primaries. As a result, voters in Virginia’s June primary election may return their absentee ballots without a witness signature if they believe they cannot safely have a witness present. 

Vishal Agraharkar, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Virginia, stated, “We applaud the court’s decision to approve this reasonable compromise for the June primary. The State Board of Elections should do the right thing and waive the witness requirement for all other elections affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this and every election, eligible voters deserve more opportunities to vote and have their ballots counted.”
 
“The court’s action preserves the right to vote for Virginians who cannot risk their health to obtain a witness signature in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Davin Rosborough, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “This settlement is a common-sense solution that protects both public health and democracy.”

“Today’s decision was the right call to protect Virginia voters’ health as well as their right to vote,” said Chris Carson, president of the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “As states around the country grapple with how to administer elections during the COVID pandemic, they should follow Virginia’s lead and put voters first.” 

The League of Women Voters commended Judge Moon’s decision and urged voters to promptly request their absentee ballots from the Virginia Department of Elections or VOTE411.

Other media:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Jan 22, 2020 Action Alert for Same Day Voter Registration

Please contact your lawmakers now in support of Same Day Voter Registration bills. You can modify the message before sending, using your own words. Click the contact link

  • Q: Why is same day voter registration important?
  • A: Letting qualified voters register or update their voter registrations on Election Day supports the right to vote.
  • Q: Does it work?
  • A: Yes. 21 states and the District of Columbia already allow same day voter registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Voters still must show proof of identity, residency, and qualification to vote. 

Urge your legislators to vote for Delegate Simon’s bill HB 187 and Delegate Ayala’s HB 201. Click here now.

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. 

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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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