The House of Delegates passed seven election reforms bills on Thursday, including a bill to require photo identification to vote, a bill shortening early voting from 45 days to 14 days, and a bill requiring voters to submit absentee ballot requests for each election.
Delegate Phillip Scott (R-Spotsylvania) introduced HB 39 to shorten early voting. He said on the House floor on Wednesday, “There’s been a lot of information out there about those who participate in early voting, there’s a lot of information about the strain that puts on the localities having to staff these locations, find places to host the early voting.”
He said, “The states that have less early voting have actually seen a higher increase in voter participation than the eight states that have longer early voting than Virginia.”
Delegate Marcia “Cia” Price (D-Newport News) replied, “As was mentioned, we had 45 days of early voting, and historic turnout in Virginia. I don’t think we have to go to other states to see that it was already working. What we have put into place since 2020 led to a historic turnout.”
She addressed the other bills. “It’s really interesting to me that there is no problem. This is a problem that is being pointed to that there could be this, there could be that, but it didn’t happen. But we’re coming with bills that would restrict voters from the access to the ballot, because we’re coming up with hypotheticals that aren’t even happening in the other states that we’re pointing to.”
The House also passed bills regulating unsolicited absentee ballots sent by third parties, requiring absentee ballots to be received by Election Day, and requiring absentee ballots to include the voter’s date of birth and the last four digits of their social security number.
Most of the bills passed on party-line votes, but the House unanimously passed Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg’s (D-Henrico) HB 439, requiring absentee ballots to be packaged with a link to explanations of constitutional amendment referenda written by a neutral third party.
Van Valkenburg said, “This would dramatically decrease the workload on DLS [Department of Legislative Services] staffers, Board of Elections staffers, and your staffers who are getting lots of calls from absentee voters saying, ‘What is this?'”
The bills now head to the Democratically-controlled Senate, which has killed some, but not all, Republican-introduced elections reforms.
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