Virginia Turns into a Voting Rights Bastion

The state’s voting rights act is being signed into regulation by a governor whose profession was almost derailed by a blackface scandal in 2019. Since then, Mr. Northam has been on the forefront of a number of the state’s racial justice initiatives and has loved excessive approval scores. He mentioned on Wednesday that the Virginia regulation ought to develop into a mannequin for the nation.

“At a time when voting rights are underneath assault throughout our nation, Virginia is increasing entry to the poll field, not limiting it,” Mr. Northam mentioned. “Our Commonwealth is making a mannequin for a way states can present complete voter protections that strengthen democracy and the integrity of our elections.”

Virginia’s flip away from its longtime restrictions on voting rights started in 2016, when Gov. Terry McAuliffe restored voting rights to 206,000 felons within the state over the objections of the Republican-led Basic Meeting and the state’s Supreme Court docket. After the courtroom dominated that Mr. McAuliffe didn’t have the authority to revive felon voting rights en masse, however may accomplish that case by case, he despatched 206,000 particular person voting rights restoration letters to felons, who had been despatched envelopes with a Virginia voter software type and a self-addressed stamped envelope.

“To me it was an ethical, civil rights challenge and this was a racist Jim Crow regulation that wanted to be eradicated,” Mr. McAuliffe mentioned on Wednesday.

As soon as Democrats took full management of state authorities final yr, one of many first payments they handed created one of many longest early-voting intervals within the nation — a 45-day window for no-excuse absentee voting, wherein folks can vote remotely with out having to offer a rationale. Greater than 2.8 million Virginians voted early within the 2020 election, almost 5 occasions as many as did so in 2016.

“That is what my ancestors fought onerous for,” mentioned Charniele Herring, the creator of the early voting invoice, who final yr turned the primary Black majority chief within the Virginia Home of Delegates. “My mother and father needed to have that wrestle within the ’60s, and that is the time to cease that wrestle and to guard everyone’s proper to vote, regardless of their political affiliation.”

Republican state legislators all opposed the Virginia Voting Rights Act, arguing that it will inundate native election directors with lawsuits and complicate routine adjustments to voting. Glenn Davis, a Republican delegate from Virginia Seashore who’s working for lieutenant governor, mentioned it was “easy human nature” that Democrats’ efforts to make voting simpler, like eliminating Virginia’s photograph identification requirement, would end in extra fraud.

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