New laws expanding Virginians’ access to voting go into effect today

Virginia News

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Laws that expands Virginian’s access to voting goes into effect today. Gov. Northam signed these bills into law on April 12 and stated that the changes are to make it easier to case a ballot — as voting is a fundamental right.

Here is a closer look at what laws go into effect today:

House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 111 — Allow people to vote early 45 days before an election without a stated excuse. Virginia currently requires absentee voters to provide the state with an approved reason they can’t vote on Election Day.

House Bill 19 and Senate Bill 65 — Remove the requirement for voters to show a photo ID before 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,” the governer’s announcment said.

House Bill 108 and Senate Bill 601 — Makes Election Day a state holiday to help ensure every Virginian has the time and opportunity to cast their ballot. In order to maintain the same number of state holidays, this bill also repeals Lee-Jackson Day holiday.

House Bill 235 and Senate Bill 219 – Create automatic voter registration for people who use the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office or the DMV website for any kind of service.

House Bill 238 and House Bill 239 — Northam’s announcement said the bills expand the timelines for absentee voting to ensure access to the polls.

House Bill 1678 — Extend in-person polling hours, having them end at 8 p.m. rather than 7 p.m — beginning in the year 2021.

Mark Coakley, the General Registrar for Henrico County, said he’s had a lot on his plate when it comes to preparing for the 2020 Presidential Election.

“These are the laws that take effect — quite a few of them,” Coakley said. “The big one being ‘No Excuse Absentee Voting.’ So, 45 days before an election, anyone can show up at a General Registrar’s office and vote in person or request a ballot by mail without the 19 reasons you need it up until now.”

Now that Election Day is a state holiday, Coakley said state employees now have ample time to cast their ballots — but he cheerfully said he has to work Election Day, so he won’t be taking the day off.

“I can’t take it off — I got work to do, but other state employees can take it and maybe work the polls. We are always looking for new poll workers,” Coakley said.

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