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Virginia governor signs legislation dropping voting restrictions

 

Virginia will no longer require voters to show a photo ID prior to casting a ballot and the state will join a handful of states across the nation in making Election Day a state holiday, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced Sunday. 

Northam said he signed a series of bills aimed at expanding access to voting. 

“Voting is a fundamental right, and these new laws strengthen our democracy by making it easier to cast a ballot, not harder,” Northam said in a statement Sunday. “No matter who you are or where you live in Virginia, your voice deserves to be heard. I’m proud to sign these bills into law.”

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Northam signed a bill replacing a state holiday, Lee-Jackson Day, that honored Confederate generals with a state holiday designated for Election Day. 

He also signed a bill repealing Virginia’s voter ID law and a bill expanding access to early voting. 

The new bill allows for early voting 45 days prior to an election without a stated excuse; Virginia previously required absentee voters to provide the state with a reason from an approved list. 

Another bill extends in-person polling hours by one hour, keeping polls open until 8 p.m. rather than 7 p.m. 

All the measures passed earlier this year in the Democratic-controlled legislature. 

Democrats won control of both the state Senate and House of Delegates in the 2019 elections. 

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The new laws were lauded by top Democrats in the state legislature. 

“We need more access to the ballot box, not less,” state Sen. Louise Lucas (D) said in a statement. “I am so proud to be a part of new laws that expand access to voting and make our Commonwealth more representative of the people we serve. Today is a historic day.”

“Our democracy relies on equal access to the ballot box,” state House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D) said in a statement. “I’m grateful to the Governor for his partnership in breaking down barriers to voting, and ensuring all Virginians have the opportunity to exercise this fundamental right.”