Northam backs bills to make Election Day a state holiday, expand early voting


Voters make their way into the polling location at Abingdon High School Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019 in Abingdon, Va. Along with the statewide races, voters in Washington County are voting on a new sheriff and a resolution concerning the future of their historic courthouse. (David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier via AP)

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is championing legislation from local state legislators that would make Election Day a state holiday and expand early voting.

The Election Day holiday bills, patroned by Senator Louise Lucas and Delegate Joseph Lindsey, would repeal Lee-Jackson Day in order to keep the number of state holidays at their current level.

Lee-Jackson Day, established in 1889 to celebrate the birthdays of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, is observed the Friday before Martin Luther King Day (3rd Monday in January).

Though private employers are not required to close on state holidays, state employees are entitled to leave.

Lucas, a Democrat from Portsmouth, and Lindsey, a Democrat from Norfolk, have proposed similar legislation in the past.

“Voting is a fundamental right,” Northam said in a press release Monday. “But in a state that once put up tremendous barriers to voting, too many people are still unable to participate meaningfully in our democracy. By making it easier—not harder—to vote, these proposals will ensure we are building a government that is truly representative of the people we serve. I look forward to working with the General Assembly to pass these important measures into law.”

The early voting bills, patroned by Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) and Delegate Charniele Herring (D-Fairfax), would allow for early voting 45 days before an election, instead of the current seven.

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