RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- Republicans in the House of Delegates advanced several bills on Wednesday to roll back new voting laws.
In the last two years, Democratic majorities in the House and Senate dramatically expanded voting access in Virginia, contributing to record turnout in recent elections. The party has been unable to defend those changes in the House after the GOP took back power, and the bills are likely to be blocked by a blue wall in the Senate, where Democrats have already killed similar proposals.
One bill expected to pass in the House Thursday aims to eliminate ballot drop boxes, an option first offered to Virginia voters during the pandemic to limit the risk of COVID-19 exposure.
Del. Ronnie Campbell (R-Raphine) said the effort to repeal the law stems from concerns raised by some registrars.
“They were concerned about chain of custody. They were concerned about the postage that was lost in the boxes when people put them in there instead of mailing them. They were concerned with tampering, the cost that was associated with it and they had people come in and drop off their ballots to the registrars office and then they would get in line and try to vote,” Campbell said.
When asked on the floor if he thinks the results of the 2021 election were tainted by fraud as a result of those observations, Campbell said, “I haven’t had no thoughts on that at all but, if I had, I would say no.”
“This is the solution in search of a problem,” Del. Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax) responded.
Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg (D-Henrico) said several of the bills take the state in the wrong direction and falsely imply that there are issues with election security.
“Over the last two years, while we have expanded access, we have also made our security mechanisms better,” VanValkenburg said.
Another GOP bill aims to restore photo identification requirements for voters. Those who fail to show one could cast a provisional ballot instead.
“You have to have an ID for everything these days,” said House Majority Leader Terry Kilgore (R-Scott). “I just think that’s a no-brainer.”
Currently, Virginians have lots of options to prove their identity, including showing a utility bill. If someone can’t show any of those forms, they can sign an affidavit instead swearing they are who they say they are. Violators risk criminal punishment.
“If you show me that people abuse the opportunities that are available, then lets address it. There is no such abuse,” Delegate Marcia Price (D-Newport News) said in response to various proposals before the House. “These efforts have been shown to impact certain groups and certain populations and that’s just not fair. That is discrimination.”
Another proposal would discard absentee ballots that arrive in the mail after polls close. Currently, a vote is counted if it’s postmarked on or before election day and received by noon on the third day after the election.
A separate bill would shorten the in-person early voting period from 45 days to two weeks. Kilgore said it also expands poll hours to 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. each day.
“We got a lot of calls from registrars and folks that were having trouble staffing so this is a response,” Kilgore said. “We think that’s long enough.”
Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) disagreed, saying on the floor, “This is an anti-freedom bill. It’s an anti-liberty bill.”
The GOP is also trying to ban permanent absentee voter lists and require an annual application instead. Another bill would remove the witness signature requirement for absentee ballots and replace it with a requirement to include the last four digits of a voter’s social security number and birthday.