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Early voting, Election Day holiday on Virginia governor’s legislative plate

Mike Still • Jan 7, 2020 at 2:30 PM

RICHMOND — Making early voting more available and turning Election Day into a state holiday to improve Virginia voters’ access to the polls are on Gov. Ralph Northam’s legislative agenda when the General Assembly convenes Wednesday.

Northam announced those goals Monday as part of his goals for the 2020 legislative session, centering on corresponding Senate and House bills, patroned by Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton and Delegate Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, and corresponding House and Senate bills from Delegate Joseph Lindsey, D-Norfolk and Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth.

Herring’s House Bill 1 would remove the existing list of reasons under state law allowing a voter to file an absentee ballot before Election Day. That means a registered voter could vote as early as 45 days before Election Day.

Lindsey’s House Bill 108 would remove Lee-Jackson Day as a state holiday and replace it with Election Day. Lee-Jackson Day commemorates Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. That state holiday was merged with commemoration of Martin Luther King. Jr. day from 1983 to 2000, after which King was honored on a separate state holiday.

“Voting is a fundamental right,” Northam said during Monday’s press conference in Richmond. “By making it easier — not harder — to vote, these proposals will ensure we are building a government that is truly representative of the people we serve. I look forward to working with the General Assembly to pass these important measures into law.”

Along with Locke, Herring, Lindsey and Lucas’ bills, other election and voting-related bills filed in advance of the 2020 session would:

— Place a state constitutional amendment referendum on the November 2020 ballot for voters to decide whether legislative district boundaries can be readjusted to align with city and county voting precincts (House Bill 14).

— Repeal the existing state requirement for a voter to show photographic identification when voting (House Bills 19 and 190).

— Allow persons to register and vote on Election Day (House Bills 187 and 201).

— Automatically register persons to vote who complete transactions at a Department of Motor Vehicles office and who present proper identification as part of those transactions (House Bill 219).

— Allow minors as young as 16 to preregister to vote for the first general election when they are eligible to vote.

For presidential elections, Senate Bill 174, patroned by Sen. Amanda F. Chase, R-Midlothian, would, change how electoral votes are allotted to presidential and vice presidential candidates. Existing state law grants all of the state’s electoral votes to the winning slate.

Under Chase’s bill, presidential and vice presidential candidates receiving the largest number of statewide votes would receive two electoral votes. The candidates receiving the greatest number of votes in each congressional district would receive the electoral vote from that district.

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