Governor Northam Signs Sweeping New Laws to Expand Access to Voting
Legislation expands early voting, makes Election Day a state holiday
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam has signed landmark new laws to repeal Virginia’s voter ID law, make Election Day a state holiday in Virginia, and expand access to early voting.
“Voting is a fundamental right, and these new laws strengthen our democracy by making it easier to cast a ballot, not harder,” said Governor Northam. “No matter who you are or where you live in Virginia, your voice deserves to be heard. I’m proud to sign these bills into law.”
Governor Northam signed these bills:
- House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 111, sponsored by House Majority Leader Charniele Herring and Senator Janet Howell, respectively, allow early voting 45 days prior to an election without a stated excuse. Virginia currently requires voters who wish to vote absentee to provide the state with a reason, from an approved list, why they are unable to vote on Election Day.
- House Bill 19 and Senate Bill 65, sponsored by Delegate Joe Lindsey and Senator Mamie Locke, respectively, remove the requirement that voters show a photo ID prior to casting a ballot. Voter ID laws disenfranchise individuals who may not have access to photo identification, and disproportionately impact low-income individuals, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities.
- House Bill 108 and Senate Bill 601, sponsored by Delegate Joe Lindsey and Senator Louise Lucas, respectively, make Election Day a state holiday, which will help ensure every Virginian has the time and opportunity to cast their ballot. In order to maintain the same number of state holidays, this measure repeals the current Lee-Jackson Day holiday, established over 100 years ago to honor Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
- House Bill 235 and Senate Bill 219, sponsored by Delegate Joshua Cole and Senator David Marsden, respectively, implement automatic voter registration for individuals accessing service at a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office or the DMV website.
- House Bill 238 and House Bill 239, sponsored by Delegate Mark Sickles, and Senate Bill 455, sponsored by Senator Bryce Reeves, expand absentee voting timelines to ensure access to the polls.
- House Bill 1678, sponsored by Delegate Joe Lindsey, extends in-person polling hours from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM.
“We need more access to the ballot box, not less,” said Senator Louise Lucas. “I am so proud to be a part of new laws that expand access to voting and make our Commonwealth more representative of the people we serve. Today is an historic day.”
“Our democracy relies on equal access to the ballot box,” said House Majority Leader Charniele Herring. “I’m grateful to the Governor for his partnership in breaking down barriers to voting, and ensuring all Virginians have the opportunity to exercise this fundamental right.”
“Virginia’s photo ID law was designed to make it more difficult to vote,” said Delegate Joe Lindsey. “It is past time we repealed this law, and I’m grateful to the Governor for helping us get it done.”
The Virginia Department of Elections encourages voters to protect their health during the COVID-19 outbreak. Voting absentee in the coming local May elections is strongly encouraged. Voters may choose reason “2A My disability or illness” for Absentee voting in the May 2020 elections due to COVID-19. Voters who choose the absentee option should do so as soon as possible so they can get their ballots in time to return them by mail by Election Day. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT: Vote.elections.virginia.gov/Voterinformation
For Immediate Release: April 8, 2020
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Alena Yarmosky, Alena.Yarmosky@governor.virginia.gov
Governor Northam Announces Plans to Postpone Upcoming Virginia Elections in Response to COVID-19
Governor delays June primary by two weeks, asks General Assembly to move May elections to November
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today requested the General Assembly move the May General Election and all special elections scheduled for May 5, 2020 to the November 3, 2020 General Election date to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The Governor is also exercising his statutory authority (§ 24.2-603.1 of the Code of Virginia) to move the June primary elections from June 9, 2020 to June 23, 2020.
“As other states have shown, conducting an election in the middle of this global pandemic would bring unprecedented challenges and potential risk to voters and those who work at polling places across the Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “Making these decisions now will help election officials prepare and implement the necessary changes. This is about protecting the health and safety of Virginians during this pandemic and ensuring our citizens can make their voices heard in a safe, fair, and uniform manner. I urge the General Assembly to do their part and take action to move our upcoming elections.”
“Free and fair elections are at the core of our democracy and no Virginian should have to choose between their health and exercising their right to vote, said Attorney General Herring. “I’m proud to have worked closely with Governor Northam and his team on a solution that protects both public health and the integrity of our elections.”
Moving the upcoming May elections requires action by the General Assembly. The plan the Governor is proposing includes the following measures:
- There will be one ballot in November.
- Voters who are qualified in November will be able to vote in November. An individual who was not qualified in May but is qualified in November will be able to vote.
- All absentee ballots already cast will be discarded. Virginians will have an opportunity to vote for local elected officials in November.
- Those officials whose terms are to expire as of June 30, 2020 will continue in office until their successors have been elected on the November 3, 2020 and have been qualified to serve.
For additional resources and information about Virginia’s COVID-19 response, please visit virginia.gov/coronavirus.