Party-line Senate committee vote kills no-excuse absentee voting bill

Democrat vs. Republican on whiteSenate Republicans voted Tuesday against State Sen. Janet Howell’s proposal to allow no-excuse absentee voting in Virginia. Senate Bill 702 was defeated along party lines in the Privileges and Elections Committee on a vote of 8-7.

“There are lots of people who want to vote in-person absentee, but find it difficult or impossible. First of all, the form is very complicated and takes a lot of time for many people to understand. Second, many people don’t fit exactly into the different categories, and wind up going home without voting or fibbing on their form,” said Howell (D-Fairfax).

“Also, in November there were long lines that kept polling places open even past eleven at night. If there were fewer people who needed to vote on Election Day, because more had been able to vote early, I’m sure we would see shorter wait times at the polls,” Howell said.

Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) said, “Voting is a sacred right, but in some parts of Virginia it’s a struggle. From complicated absentee rules to long lines at the polls, Virginians face unacceptable obstacles when they try to vote. If we don’t fix this, we aren’t doing the job the public sent us here to do. The people are counting on us to remove these appalling obstacles to participating in Democracy. Republicans today insulted the memory of every American who has fought for our right to elect our leaders.”

Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) said, “Senate Republicans disregarded the clear needs of Virginia voters today. Our political process is at its strongest when everyone is able to participate and all voices are heard. When lines at the polls are over 4 or 5 hours long in some places, some voices aren’t being heard. We need to do everything we can to prevent that. I’m disappointed that my Republican colleagues think it’s acceptable to keep voting a marathon ordeal.”


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