April 12, 2020 News & Press Releases

Governor Ralph Northam Signs Historic Voters’ Rights Legislation Into Law

by Democratic Party of Virginia

RICHMOND, VA — Governor Ralph Northam finished signing a host of historic legislation into law this weekend to make voting easier in the Commonwealth. Expanding the right to vote by making registration and absentee voting more accessible will help boost turnout in a year when coronavirus is causing long lines at the polls and risking public health.

Democrats prioritized voters' rights to uphold the promises of democracy, and because voter suppression has historically been used to keep people of color and other vulnerable communities away from the polls. 

Some of this historic legislation includes: 

  • HB1/SB111 “No Excuse Absentee” allows for in-person and by-mail absentee voting and removes the requirement to provide an excuse from a pre-approved list.
  • HB238/SB455 allows for vote-by-mail where ballots postmarked on or by Election Day are to be counted. Vote-by-mail recently re-entered the national spotlight because of the need for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, highlighting the importance of this policy.
  • HB19/SB65 eliminates the voter registration requirement for photo identification and expands acceptable forms of ID, allowing eligible voters who are less likely to carry photo ID to participate in the democratic process.
  • HB108/SB601 makes Election Day a legal holiday, replacing Lee-Jackson Day, a move to increase turnout by allowing more workers to get time off to vote, or drive folks like the elderly to the polls.
  • HB235/SB219 allows for automatic voter registration by any eligible voter applying for or updating their driver’s license or special identification cards at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • HB201 removes the previous requirement that voters register 21 days before an election. Starting in 2022, voters can now register at their polling place on the day of the election.
  • HB1053 requires any electronic voting system to retain each printed ballot cast. Paper trails allow for heightened election security and vote count verification in the event of technological failures on election day.

In 2018, Virginia was ranked one of the most difficult states in which to vote. This legislation combats historic disenfranchisement of low-income communities and people of color, and Virginia's Democratic trifecta made these changes possible. Voting is an essential right and it is our priority as a party to promote the democratic process in Virginia and expand the right to vote. No one should have to choose between voting and their paycheck or health,” said DPVA Voter Protection & Expansion Director Alyssa Pooler.