RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has signed more of this year's high-profile legislation, including laws to expand access to early voting, repeal the state's voter ID law and make Election Day a state holiday in Commonwealth.
“Voting is a fundamental right, and these new laws strengthen our democracy by making it easier to cast a ballot, not harder,” Northam said. “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.”
The Office of the Governor said Northam signed the following 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.
The Commonwealth's GOP-led Voter ID Law was signed by former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2013.
Del. Joe Lindsey said that law was "designed to make it more difficult to vote."
“It is past time we repealed this law, and I’m grateful to the Governor for helping us get it done," Lindsey said.
There is currently a 45-day period leading up to Election Day where voters can cast early or absentee ballots if they meet one of the approved reasons for doing so.
House Majority Leader Charniele Herring praised the laws saying they will ensure all Virginians can "exercise this fundamental right.”
Northam said in his 2020 State of the Commonwealth address that making voting easier was one of his goals.