Legislature prepares for Vote by Mail election

Unite Virginia
June 19, 2020

The official start of summer is here.

Virginians are embracing the warmer weather, reopening of the economy, and in some places getting ready for primary elections. 

In other states, we have seen Election Day chaos fueled by long lines, administrative confusion, legal challenges, and voters risking their health by being forced to vote in person. 

Around the country, legislators have sparred over the expansion of absentee voting. By politicizing pragmatic changes to their electoral systems, legislators have placed partisanship before the safety of voters.

In Virginia, legislators provided a head start by passing a no-excuse absentee bill earlier this year. This crucial policy grants voters the freedom to choose to vote early in-person, by mail, or on Election Day at their local precinct without jeopardizing their personal health or the integrity of their vote. 

No-excuse absentee voting officially goes into effect July 1, 2020, but due to the pandemic, the option to vote by mail has been widely embraced and utilized by voters across the political spectrum. 

The new law provides Virginia voters a 45 day window before an election to cast their ballot. With anticipated record turnout in November, this law mitigates some of the potential health risks and logistical challenges while providing election administrators the needed runway to implement it properly. 

Virginia legislators did not stop there.

Other successful legislation passed this year allows voters to opt-in to a one-year absentee list beginning July 1, 2020. Fast forward to July 1, 2021 and voters may opt-in to permanently receive an absentee ballot for every election. These laws expand voters’ options and convenience while reducing election costs by streamlining the administrators process. 

Still, there are improvements to be made. Election security and integrity are two paramount issues that can be addressed during a special session this August, before Election Day. 

In the interest of improving our elections, signature verification (currently used in several states across the country) will be a welcomed addition. This enhancement would remove the burden of having a witness present while voting by mail. Additionally, secure and convenient drop boxes may be used to further reduce election administration costs while increasing voter options.

Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on our world. Our elections are no exception. By learning from the successes of other states and implementing best practices Virginia can ensure safe and secure elections for all voters.

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