The Bulletin

No excuse early absentee voting bills pass General Assembly

By: - February 22, 2019 5:01 am

A poll worker in Chesterfield had “I Voted” stickers at the ready in 2018. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Legislation allowing no-excuse, early absentee voting passed the General Assembly Thursday and heads for the governor’s desk.

Sen. Lionell Spruill, D-Chesapeake, carried one bill, which was amended in a committee to be the same as a bill from Del. Nick Rush, R-Montgomery.

Both versions allow registered voters to cast an absentee ballot without providing a reason starting the Saturday before Election Day. The regular absentee voting window — 45 days before Election Day and with an excuse — still stands. 

However, the provisions don’t take effect until 2020.

“Voting is the most important way Virginians can make their voices heard,” Spruill said in a news release. “I am proud to champion legislation that provides additional voting options to make it more convenient and practical for working, eligible Virginians to cast their ballot. The passage of this bill is an excellent first step, but our work is not done. We must continue working to make voting easier and more accessible for all Virginians.”

Senate Democrats noted in a news release that several other voting rights bills died in committees this year, including one from Hampton Sen. Mamie Locke to get rid of the state’s photo I.D. requirement for voting; one from Portsmouth Sen. Louise Lucas to require the Board of Corrections to provide absentee voting and rights restoration information to certain inmates; and a constitutional amendment from both that grants a blanket right to vote, reversing the current requirement of not being convicted of a felony and not having been adjudicated to be mentally incompetent.

Several voting measures proposed by Democrats in the House met a similar fate, including extending absentee voting to people over 65repealing the photo I.D. requirement and a form of automatic voter registration.

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Mechelle Hankerson
Mechelle Hankerson

Mechelle, born and raised in Virginia Beach, is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in mass communications and a concentration in print journalism. She covered the General Assembly for the university’s Capital News Service and was among 12 student journalists in swing states selected by the Washington Post to cover the 2012 presidential election. For the past five years, she has covered local government, crime, housing, infrastructure and other issues at the Raleigh News & Observer and The Virginian-Pilot, where she most recently covered the state’s biggest city, Virginia Beach. Mechelle was with the Virginia Mercury until January 3rd, 2019.