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.”
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.
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.”