Virginia: State Senate passes voting-rights bills

lawSenate Democrats celebrated an expansion of voting rights as SB1026, a bill introduced by Sen. Lionell Spruill (D-Chesapeake) and chief co-patroned by Sens. Rosalyn Dance (D-Petersburg) ,Janet Howell (D-Fairfax), and Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), passed both the House of Delegates and Senate and now moves to the governor for his signature.

This bill will allow any registered voter to cast an absentee ballot in person beginning on the second Saturday immediately preceding any election in which they are qualified to vote without providing a reason or making prior application for an absentee ballot. Previously, voters could only vote absentee if they met specific reasons such as working 11 or more hours a day, a disability or illness, or being a Virginia resident at an out-of-state school.

“Voting is the most important way Virginians can make their voices heard,” said Spruill. “I am proud to champion legislation that provides additional voting options to make it more convenient and practical for working, eligible Virginians to cast their ballot. The passage of this bill is an excellent first step, but our work is not done. We must continue working to make voting easier and more accessible for all Virginians.”

While Spruill’s bill has now passed both chambers of the General Assembly, a number of other Democratic initiatives to improve voters’ access to the ballot were rejected by Republicans.

The following bills were introduced by Senate Democrats and killed in committee by Senate Republicans in 2019:

  • SB1447 (Sen. Locke) – Removes the requirement that voters show a form of identification containing a photograph in order to be allowed to vote.
  • SB1202 (Sen. Lucas) – Provides that the Board of Corrections shall provide information on absentee voting to all persons confined in a local correctional facility who may be eligible to vote and information on the process of applying for a restoration of civil rights and of voting rights for those persons who have been convicted of a felony.
  • SB1063 (Sen. Marsden) – Would implement automatic voter registration by providing for the automatic electronic transmission by the Department of Motor Vehicles to the Department of Elections of certain information for any person coming into an office of the Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • SB1281 (Sen. Barker) – Provides that the expiration date on a Virginia driver’s license offered for voting identification purposes shall not be considered when determining the validity of the license.
  • SJ261 (Sen. Locke) & SJ262 (Sen. Lucas) – Establishes that the sole qualifications to vote in the Commonwealth are United States citizenship, being at least 18 years of age, residency in the Commonwealth, and registration to vote in accordance with the requirements set out in the Constitution of Virginia. The amendment further provides that any person who meets those qualifications has the right to vote and that such right cannot be abridged by law. The bill removes from current constitutional qualifications to vote not having been convicted of a felony and not having been adjudicated to be mentally incompetent.

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