Our View of the Legislature – Voting

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This year, the disAbility Law Center of Virginia has been advocating for expanded rights to vote “curbside” for a person with any kind of disability. During our election day monitoring, we paid close attention to compliance with the requirements to offer curbside voting and asked officials if they found those requirements difficult. Most responded that they did not.

We have also been monitoring any efforts that would limit or restrict the rights of people to vote. We support the rights of individuals with disabilities to be able to vote in a manner that is accessible, easily available, and private. We promote more accessible polling places and better options for early, mail-in, and curbside voting to enable as many to be able to vote as want to.

Here is the status of some bills on voting rights that we are following:

Curbside Voting

Some bills will expand the definition of who may request a curb-side ballot. Current law limits this option to those with physical disabilities or those who are 65 or older. The proposals under consideration would allow for a voter with any disability to request it.

The Senate version, SB 605 (Subramanyam), was approved by the Senate and has been read twice in the House. We expect passage today or tomorrow.

HB 441 (Bennet-Parker), combined two other similar House bills — HB 43 (Thomas) and HB 1222 (Higgins)— and was approved by the full House. Yesterday, the bill was approved by the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections and now goes to the full Senate for approval.

Voter Identification Requirements

Two bills would have limited the ability of people with disabilities to vote if they do not have a photo identification. SB 45 (Peake) and SB 81 (McGuire) were both defeated in the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections.

HB 26 (Reid) states that acceptable identification to vote may include an ID card issued by a provider licensed by the Department of Health, Department of Social Services, Department of Medical Assistance Services, or Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. The bill was approved by the House and the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections.

Electronic Ballots

HB 796 (Hope) would have required that the Department of Elections establish an electronic transmission system through which a military or overseas voter or voter with a disability may request, receive, and return a ballot. The Department of Elections argued that it would cost the state $1 million or more to do this, and many election advocates argued that electronic ballot returns cannot be done securely. The bill was tabled in the House Committee on Privileges and Elections.

Constitutional Amendments

HJ 2 (Bennett-Parker) and SJ 2 (Locke) would amend the Virginia constitution to state that a person under guardianship must be found to be lacking the specific capacity to understand the act of voting before being deprived of the right to vote. Currently, the Constitution of Virginia presumes that any person under guardianship is not qualified to vote.

Because constitutional amendments have to be approved by the legislature in two different years, with a state election in between, the Senate has delayed voting on possible constitutional amendments until 2025. The House resolution was likewise carried over to 2025.

The disAbility Law Center of Virginia is available to educate policymakers about the potential impact of these and other legislative proposals. If you know of something you think we should be watching, please let us know at ga@dlcv.org or info@dlcv.org or by calling 1-800-552-3962 or 1-804-225-2042.