Virginia Department of Elections Recommends 45 Days of Early Voting
Virginia voters should be allowed to cast their ballots up to 45 days before election day without providing an excuse, according to a new report from the Virginia Department of Elections (ELECT).
The idea has already gained traction with the newly-elected Democratic majority in the House of Delegates. Their first bill filed this session would eliminate the requirement for excuses.
The move would mark a change from the absentee rules that governed recent elections. Voters currently have to provide one of 20 reasons to vote early, such as being away on a business trip on Election Day.
A new, bipartisan law passed this year allows in-person, no-excuse absentee voting from second Saturday before any election through the Saturday before the election beginning in next year’s vote. Legislation passed this year also required ELECT to submit findings on how to implement the new system, and recommendations on revising it in the future.
The resulting report notes that the new system is likely to confound voters who are unclear on whether or not they’ll need a reason to vote absentee. Among other things, voters who mail ballots still have to provide an excuse no matter when they cast it.
“Allowing for all no-excuse absentee voting would reduce voter confusion,” the report says.
The findings were quickly embraced by a couple of Democratic House delegates on Twitter.
“Coming soon, Virginia!” Tweeted Del. Jay Jones (D-Norfolk). “And not a moment too soon.”
Democrats have tried for years to loosen Virginia’s absentee voting requirements; until this year’s law, the state was one of less than a dozen that required an excuse to vote absentee. Republicans have largely opposed those efforts, citing concerns from registrars over whether they’ll have enough time and resources to account for the expected influx in early voters.
The report recommends leaving it up to localities to decide where to establish early voting sites aside from the general registrar’s office. They would also be responsible for fronting the costs for those sites.