RICHMOND, Va. -- Governor Ralph Northam announced budget proposals Tuesday aimed at increasing voter access amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Northam unveiled the measures during a virtual Joint Meeting of the House Appropriations, House Finance, Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees.
“As we continue to navigate this pandemic, we must take additional steps to make it easier to vote, not harder,” said Governor Northam.
Northam says the three proposals are aimed at addressing challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and ensuring all Virginians have safe and fair access to vote ahead of the November 3rd General Election.
⦁ Prepaid postage: Governor Northam’s proposed budget sets aside $2 million for prepaid return postage on all absentee ballots sent out for the November 3rd General Election.
⦁ Drop off boxes and drop off locations: The Governor’s proposal includes language expressly permitting localities to use drop boxes or implement drop off locations for Virginians who choose to vote absentee, under security standards to be set by the Virginia Department of Elections.
⦁ Absentee cure process: This measure will ensure Virginians’ voting rights are protected by allowing them to fix an error on their absentee ballot. Currently, Virginians who make an error are not able to fix that error and therefore their ballot may be discarded. Many Virginians will be voting absentee for the first time this November, and this language will help ensure Virginians’ votes are counted.
“With these measures, we will protect public health and ensure Virginians can safely exercise their right to vote in the November election. Whether you put your ballot in the mail or vote in-person, voting will be safe and secure in our Commonwealth,” Northam added.
The League of Women Voters of Virginia released a statement strongly supporting the proposals and urging the General Assembly to adopt them.
"We commend the Governor on his elections proposals and urge the General Assembly to adopt them," said Deb Wake, president of League of Women Voters of Virginia. "Voters should not need to choose between their health and their right to vote, a cornerstone of our democracy. Secure and flexible access to voting will preserve public health and safety."
The Governor’s proposed budget also includes funding for measures to reform policing, teach a more accurate version of Virginia history, expand safe, affordable housing, and increasing access to high-speed broadband.
The proposals will be considered by lawmakers during the special General Assembly session set to begin Tuesday afternoon.