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Ethan Gardner helps a JMU student register to vote in 2019.

Post by Ethan Gardner, JMU ’20, Democracy Fellow

Automatic Voter Registration via DMV

  • HB 235: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+sum+HB235
  • Delegate Joshua Cole
  • Automatic electronic transmission of voter registration information to the Department of Elections by the Department of Motor Vehicles when applying, replacing, or renewing a driver’s license, a special ID card, or a change of address on an existing driver’s license if the person is 17 or older. People may decline to have this information transmitted to the Department of Elections.
  • The Department of Elections will use this information to determine if the person is already registered. If not, the info will be transmitted to the appropriate general registrar to register that person.

Vote by Mail Changes

  • No Excuse Absentee
  • Late Mail Ballots
  • Adjusted deadline to apply for an absentee ballot
  • Emergency Absentee Ballot Information
    • HB 242: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+sum+HB242
    • Delegate Mark Sickles
    • If you have an emergency that causes you to miss the absentee ballot request deadline or will make a person unable to vote on election day, they can apply for an absentee ballot late.
    • The Commissioner of Elections may also take administrative action to facilitate absentee voting for people providing emergency services in an area where a state of emergency has been declared (may be relevant for COVID)
  • Exception to first-time voters permitted to vote by mail

Expansion of Documents to Vote

  • HB 19: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+sum+HB19
    • Delegate Joe Lindsey
    • Removes requirement that voters show photo identification at their polling precinct to be allowed to vote. Instead, voters may show any one of a number of documents, including:
      • Voter registration confirmation documents.
      • Valid VA Driver’s License
      • Valid US Passport
      • Any identification issued by the Commonwealth of VA, one of its political subdivisions, or the US government
      • Student ID Card issued by any institution of higher education in VA
      • Employee ID card with a photograph
      • Copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government documents with a voter’s name and address
    • If a voter cannot produce one of these documents, the voter will be required to sign a statement that they are the registered voter that they claim to be in order to cast a ballot. The statement is subject to felony penalties.
    • If unwilling to sign the statement, a voter may cast a provisional ballot.
  • HB 213: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+sum+HB213
    • Delegate Rip Sullivan
    • Adds a valid student photo ID card issued by institutions of higher education anywhere in the United States. Previous law only allowed higher education institutions in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

State Holiday on Election Day

Protected Voter Status Expansion

  • HB 241: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+sum+HB241
  • Delegate Mark Sickles
  • Protected Voter Status allows voters to hide their voter registration information from public record. People who are fearful for their safety or have been stalked will no longer be required to show evidence of filing a complaint with a magistrate or law enforcement official. They will still have to submit a written statement that they are in fear for personal safety.

Voter Registration at Schools

  • Public High Schools
    • HB 1491: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+sum+HB1491
    • Delegate Nancy Guy
    • Each public high school will be required to provide enrolled students of voting age access to VA voter registration information and applications, or via the online voter registration system through a school-owned computer, during normal school days.
  • Public and Private Colleges, Universities, and educational nonprofit organizations
    • HB 232: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+sum+HB232
    • Delegate Rodney Willett
    • Requires Department of Elections to provide “reasonable number” of mail voter registration applications to public institutions of higher education, nonprofit private institutions of higher education (that are eligible for the Tuition Assistance Grant Program), and any higher education institution authorized to issue bonds.
    • Requires SCHEV to provide a list of qualifying institutions to the Department of Elections and request these institutions make mail voter registration application forms available to students.

Provisional Ballots

  • Persons voting in split precincts
    • HB 43: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+sum+HB43
    • Delegate Mark L. Cole
    • Provides that any voter who is assigned to a precinct that is split between two or more election districts and who believes he was given a ballot for the district of which he is not a qualified voter may request, prior to casting the ballot, and shall be permitted to cast a provisional ballot for the district of which he believes he is a qualified voter and for the district in which the pollbook indicates he is registered.

Future Election Laws

  • Same Day Voter Registration
    • HB 201: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+sum+HB201
    • Delegate Hala Ayala
    • Implementation October 1, 2022
    • Any person who meets voter registration qualifications can register up to an including the day of the election. They may register on election day either at the office of the general registrar in their locality or at the polling place where they reside.
  • Permanent Vote by Mail Opt-In System
    • HB 207: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+sum+HB207
    • Delegate Schuyler Vanvalkenburg
    • Implementation July 1, 2021
    • Provides for a special application to receive absentee ballots in all elections they are eligible to vote in. They become part of this list until the voter requests to be removed from the list, or their registration is canceled, moves outside the locality, or is placed on an inactive status under the law.
    • Creates an opt-in permanent vote by mail system in Virginia.
  • Expanded Language Requirements for Voting Materials
  • HB 1210: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+sum+HB1210
  • Delegate Kathy Tran
  • Implementation September 1, 2021
  • Requires the Department of Elections and local registrars to use Census data and add languages to voting materials to aid immigrant and Native American residents.

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