State delegate proposes bill to ease absentee voting laws, increase voter turnout

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A state delegate from northern Virginia wants to increase voter turnout by changing absentee ballot requirements.

The idea is if more people could vote absentee then perhaps more votes would be cast for that election.

“Voting should be easy. It is something that’s our right,” said Delegate Charniele Herring (Dist. 46).

Herring said Virginia’s current absentee voting laws don’t exactly make it easy for people to get to the polls.

“There are so many circumstances where people may not be able to get to the ballot box on Election Day,” Herring said. 

In the 2016 general election, there were more than 496,000 absentee voters in Virginia. However, one year later, only 182,000 people voted absentee.

Right now if you want to vote by absentee ballot, you have to disclose why you can’t vote in person. Not only that, you have to provide proof.

Some examples of qualifying absentee voters include active duty service members, inmates, and people who are sick or disabled.

“If they are homebound because of a medical condition, then they would need a note from a physician to verify that. That’s a lot of steps and hoops to go through to get to the ballot box,” Herring said.

If this proposal passes, the law would allow anyone who is registered to vote to send in an absentee ballot without having to explain why. 

“It’s already happening in 38 other states and it’s time for us to get rid of our old ways of doing things,” Herring said.

But what about the possibility of voter fraud? Herring said she’s working with elections registrars and it’s possible if you request to vote absentee, that’s how you’ll be required to cast your ballot. 

“That will be part of the discussion of this bill is how to protect and also to make sure that two ballots aren’t cast” she said.

The Virginia legislative session will kick off in January. We’ll let you know if this bill makes it through.

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