Virginia, the Old Confederacy’s Coronary heart, Becomes a Voting Rights Bastion
The state’s voting rights act is being signed into legislation by a governor whose profession was practically derailed by a blackface scandal in 2019. Since then, Mr. Northam has been at the forefront of a host of the state’s racial justice initiatives and has loved excessive approval scores. He stated on Wednesday that the Virginia legislation ought to turn into a mannequin for the nation.
“At a time when voting rights are below assault throughout our nation, Virginia is increasing entry to the poll field, not limiting it,” Mr. Northam stated. “Our Commonwealth is creating a mannequin for a way states can present complete voter protections that strengthen democracy and the integrity of our elections.”
Virginia’s flip away from its longtime restrictions on voting rights started in 2016, when Gov. Terry McAuliffe restored voting rights to 206,000 felons in the state over the objections of the Republican-led Basic Meeting and the state’s Supreme Court docket. After the court docket dominated that Mr. McAuliffe didn’t have the authority to revive felon voting rights en masse, however may accomplish that case by case, he despatched 206,000 particular person voting rights restoration letters to felons, who had been despatched envelopes with a Virginia voter utility kind and a self-addressed stamped envelope.
“To me it was a ethical, civil rights problem and this was a racist Jim Crow legislation that wanted to be eradicated,” Mr. McAuliffe stated on Wednesday.
As soon as Democrats took full management of state authorities final yr, certainly one of the first payments they handed created certainly one of the longest early-voting intervals in the nation — a 45-day window for no-excuse absentee voting, during which individuals can vote remotely with out having to offer a rationale. Greater than 2.8 million Virginians voted early in the 2020 election, practically 5 occasions as many as did so in 2016.
“That is what my ancestors fought laborious for,” stated Charniele Herring, the creator of the early voting invoice, who final yr grew to become the first Black majority chief in the Virginia Home of Delegates. “My dad and mom needed to have that wrestle in the ’60s, and that is the time to cease that wrestle and to guard all people’s proper to vote, irrespective of their political affiliation.”
Republican state legislators all opposed the Virginia Voting Rights Act, arguing that it could inundate native election directors with lawsuits and complicate routine adjustments to voting. Glenn Davis, a Republican delegate from Virginia Seashore who’s working for lieutenant governor, stated it was “easy human nature” that Democrats’ efforts to make voting simpler, like eliminating Virginia’s picture identification requirement, would end in extra fraud.
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