Virginia House passes absentee voting, voter registration bills


The Virginia House unanimously passed legislation Wednesday that would let the governor extend the voter registration deadline for a person if there was an error with the voter registration system.

House Bill 1810 would allow the governor to extend the registration deadline for a period of time equal to the amount of time during which the voter registration system was unavailable, rounded up to the nearest whole day. Lawmakers introduced the proposal after last year’s registration disruption when the website was down for several hours and a judge had to extend the registration deadline for 48 hours.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Henrico, would not compel the governor to take action. It passed the House unanimously, 98-0. The legislation has been sent over to the Senate and referred to the chamber’s Privileges and Elections Committee.

Another bill to reform absentee voting, which also was sponsored by VanValkenburg, passed the House without the same bipartisan support. House Bill 1888, which passed the chamber 55-43, seeks to establish greater availability and accessibility to the absentee voting process.

Under the bill, absentee ballots returned before Election Day would need to be verified for correct completion and provide the voter with the opportunity to make corrections in certain circumstances. The bill also would establish drop-off locations for voters to return absentee ballots after completing them and require every locality to establish a central absentee voter precinct, which currently is optional.

This bill also would require absentee ballot processing to begin before polls close but no ballot could be transmitted outside of the central absentee voter precinct before polls closed, under the penalty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Absentee ballots, under this bill, would have to be reported separately from ballots cast in-person.

The legislation has been sent to the Senate and referred to the chamber’s Privileges and Elections Committee.

House and Senate committees advanced other election-related bills out of a committee over the past two days, which have yet to receive a vote by the full House or Senate.

The House Privileges and Elections Committee advanced legislation that would require precincts to allow curbside voting for individuals with disabilities or injuries. Under House Bill 1921, the requirement would be extended to all voters during a state of emergency related to a communicable disease of public health threat. It received unanimous support.

The committee also advanced House Bill 2081, which would prohibit a person from carrying a firearm within 40 feet of a polling location. This legislation received opposition from Republicans.

The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee advanced Senate Bill 1097, which would eliminate the requirement for absentee ballots to include a witness signature. It received pushback from Republicans.

Efforts to establish automatic voter registration failed to advance in House and Senate committees.

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