Virginia's Legislature Considers Giving Localities Option for Early In-Person Absentee Voting on Sundays
Throughout history, the Black church has long been a place of refuge and rallying point for the Black community. From the Revolutionary War, to the Civil Rights Movement, and Black Lives Matter protests, Black churches continue to be the central organizing force in the fight for civil liberties.
Amidst societal and political forces that have continually attempted to minimize the impact of Black voices, the Black church has long been an outlet and organizing space for the Black community, ensuring their voices (and votes) are heard.
In Virginia, if not for the Black church, our state would not be the open and inclusive state it has become. Congregations like the First Baptist Church of Petersburg have long been home to mass meetings and voter registration drives. Today, the Black church remains committed to ensuring access to the ballot and helping folks exercise the right to vote.
Sunday voting drives help to ensure that Black voices are heard, offering rides to polling places for church-goers on Sunday after services. Especially in communities that may not have access to convenient or regular transportation, the effort is a much needed way to knock down some of the barriers that lead to disenfranchisement.
A bill introduced this year by Delegate Lamont Bagby provides localities an opportunity to increase voting options. HB1968 has now passed in the House, and awaits passage by the Senate. It would allow election officials the option to provide absentee voting in person on Sundays ahead of the election, providing another opportunity to vote for those who would otherwise be working or unavailable during most regular polling hours.
In other states that have made it possible for voters to vote on Sundays, polling times are often shorter and less crowded — something that’s been especially important amidst the pandemic. Certainly, the importance of the Black vote has been felt across the country this year, as record turnout by the Black community in Georgia helped elevate a Black pastor to the United States Senate.
The health of our democracy and our Republic depends on our ability to ensure that all voices are heard equally. Empowering voters and communities through Sunday voting is a critical part of that. Increasing voter access and convenience is in the interest of all Virginians.