Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has signed a series of bills repealing voter ID restrictions and expanding access to early voting in the state, Northam announced Sunday.
Virginia voters will no longer be required to show a photo ID prior to casting a ballot. The state also made Election Day a state holiday.
“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. “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,” he added.
Governor Northam signed these bills:
- House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 111, sponsored by House Majority Leader Charniele Herring and Senator Janet Howell, respectively, allow early voting 45 days prior to an election without a stated excuse. Virginia currently requires voters who wish to vote absentee to provide the state with a reason, from an approved list, why they are unable to vote on Election Day.
- House Bill 19 and Senate Bill 65, sponsored by Delegate Joe Lindsey and Senator Mamie Locke, respectively, remove the requirement that voters show a photo ID prior to casting a ballot. Voter ID laws disenfranchise individuals who may not have access to photo identification, and disproportionately impact low-income individuals, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities.
- House Bill 108 and Senate Bill 601, sponsored by Delegate Joe Lindsey and Senator Louise Lucas, respectively, make Election Day a state holiday, which will help ensure every Virginian has the time and opportunity to cast their ballot. In order to maintain the same number of state holidays, this measure repeals the current Lee-Jackson Day holiday, established over 100 years ago to honor Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
- House Bill 235 and Senate Bill 219, sponsored by Delegate Joshua Cole and Senator David Marsden, respectively, implement automatic voter registration for individuals accessing service at a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office or the DMV website.
- House Bill 238 and House Bill 239, sponsored by Delegate Mark Sickles, and Senate Bill 455, sponsored by Senator Bryce Reeves, expand absentee voting timelines to ensure access to the polls.
House Bill 1678, sponsored by Delegate Joe Lindsey, extends in-person polling hours from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM.
Democrats praised the legislation as a victory for democracy.
“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.”
State Sen. Louise Lucas (D) also released a statement lauding the new law.
“We need more access to the ballot box, not less,” he said. “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.”