‘Your voice deserves to be heard’: Gov. Northam signs landmark laws to expand access to voting

Virginia

(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed new laws to expand access to voting.

The landmark new laws were signed Easter Sunday, aiming 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.”

These are the bills signed into law:

  • 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 1678, sponsored by Delegate Joe Lindsey, extends in-person polling hours from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM.

The same day, Northam signed several criminal justice reform legislation into law with measures raising the felony larceny threshold; permanently eliminating driver’s license suspensions for unpaid fines, fees, and court costs; raising the age of juvenile transfer to adult court; and reforming parole.

Saturday, Northam signed the Virginia Values Act, which provides anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

He also signed Senate Bill 183 and House Bill 1537, which repeal racially discriminatory language and giving power for localities to control the status of Confederate monuments in their communities on Saturday.


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