Advancing on gains made last year, Democrats in Virginia are pushing for another big play.
After last year’s success pulling in soft Republicans to help pass their agenda, Democrats are eagerly asking for more.
This year they’ve announced a bold agenda to import California-style voting laws into the Commonwealth with Governor Northam confident he has all the votes he needs.
Northam Announces His Plan to End Voter ID and Usher-in Early Voting
California’s voting laws caused a flurry of conservative outrage after the Midterm elections last year.
On election night the Republican party was down just 26 seats.
But when all the absentee votes had been tallied, the GOP lost nearly every contested race in the Golden State.
Now, Governor Ralph Northam has announced more of his agenda for 2019’s session that would bring Virginia’s voting laws to resemble those in states like Colorado and California.
One of his prized proposals is a bill to end voter ID.
Currently, Virginia’s voters must present valid photo identification to cast their vote.
Northam attacks this requirement as a difficult barrier for voters to overcome, especially for minority voters.
“[T]he photo ID law just makes it harder for people, especially minority voters or low-income voters to lawfully vote” Northam said in a quote.1
However, the governor’s release did not include any explanation as to why minority citizens living legally in Virginia have such a difficult time getting photo ID.2
During the same statement, Northam also downplayed the problem of voter fraud in Virginia.
“While photo ID laws are intended to reduce voter fraud, very little such voter fraud actually exists.” stated Northam, but he declined to explain why the current photo ID law did not play any role in keeping voter fraud down.
In support of keeping voter ID, conservative groups have cited cases of Virginia voter fraud that have likely swung elections in recent years.
In 2017, National Review reported “the Public Interest Legal Foundation released documented proof that in just 138 of Virginia’s counties and cities, voting officials quietly removed 5,556 voters from the rolls for being non-citizens in recent years and that a third of them had cast ballots”.3
Also frequently referenced is the case of a James Madison University student turning in at least 18-20 fraudulent registrations.
The student had been using recently deceased residents to fraudulently complete voter registration forms.4
A further investigation released just before the Midterms last year revealed an array of problems with Virginia’s elections systems.
“Virginia’s elections systems have multiple problems, including an unreliable technology system and a leadership structure susceptible to undue political influence, according to a new report” AP News reported .5
Democrats opposing Virginia’s voter ID law counter that no wide spread voter fraud has yet been discovered.
However, the governor’s new range of early voting bills and the repeal of voter ID laws may soon test whether Virginia’s elections security will hold up.
Early Voting Bill Picks up Growing Support
Current law features 20 listed excuses for voters to cast their ballot early if they can’t show up on election day.
The reasons include travel, medical, and work conflicts among several others.
Governor Northam’s supported bill would usher in no-excuse early voting to the Commonwealth.
This measure is similar to laws already on the books in Colorado and California.
Many of these proposed laws have been introduced in the past, but Northam believes the proposals could pass this year.
This is likely due to a wave of seats Democrats picked up in the 2017 election.
Just last year, moderate Republicans voted with Governor Northam to pass the Democrat caucus agenda.
Now, Northam is hopeful that Speaker Kirk Cox or other GOP moderates like Senators Jill Vogel or Emmett Hanger will vote with him again.
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