Senate committee kills election reform
The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, led by Chairman State Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), voted on Friday to defeat legislation offered by State Sen. Mark Herring (Loudoun & Fairfax) to improve voter access to the polls in Virginia.
Herring’s legislation, SB 1062, proposed a number of common sense reforms designed to make voting faster and more accessible to all voters. Those reforms included extended voting hours, more flexible early voting and registration opportunities and requiring the State Board of Elections to develop a plan to minimize wait times for voters on election day.
“This past November, Virginians waited up to five hours to vote at some polling locations across our state and that is completely unacceptable,” Herring stated. “Instead of making voting easier, Sen. Obenshain wants to make voting harder for Virginians by sponsoring voter ID legislation. Erecting unnecessary barriers to voting is the wrong approach.”
Virginia’s federal delegation took note of the committee’s action. Sen. Mark Warner and Congressman Gerry Connolly are leading the charge in Washington, D.C., to make voting faster and more accessible. They are sponsors of the Fair, Accurate, Secure and Timely (FAST) Voting Act of 2012 that would create a competitive grant program to encourage states to aggressively pursue election reform.
“I applaud these efforts on behalf of every Virginian who was forced to wait for hours in the cold on election day simply to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” Sen. Warner stated. “That kind of de facto poll tax has no place in today’s society. We need to continue this fight, on both the state and federal levels.”
“If enacted, the reforms in this bill would have been a decisive step forward for Virginia,” said Congressman Connolly. “We must prevent a repeat of the dysfunction we saw on November 6 and guarantee that every Virginian is able to exercise his or her right to vote.
Del. Luke Torian (D-Prince William) has also introduced several bills in the House of Delegates aimed at improving voter access to the polls, however, his bills met a similar fate as Herring’s: they were defeated by a voice vote in a House of Delegates subcommittee.
“I am pleased to serve as a co-patron on Sen. Herring’s comprehensive voting bill. Unfortunately today’s Senate Committee did not act favorably toward this bill and other pieces of legislation that would make it easier for citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” Torian stated. “I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Herring on other initiatives that will make voting quick and easy for all Virginians.”