Our View of the Legislature: Voting

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There are many bills that came through the House of Delegates seeking to repeal election reforms that were enacted over the last year or two. Many of the changes made in the last year or two strengthened the ability of voters with disabilities to be able to vote safely and independently. Similar bills seeking to repeal those reforms were defeated in the Senate. The House bills that passed have mostly all been addressed, and defeated, by the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections.

Voting bills we followed include:

Voter ID laws — several proposals in the House would have reinstated the requirement for someone to produce a photo ID to vote. Generally, photo ID requirements can disadvantage people with disabilities. The one version that was approved by the House, HB 46 (Ware), went before the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections, where it was defeated (“passed by indefinitely). Similar bills in the Senate were defeated in committee several weeks ago.

Absentee and Early Voting HB 35 (Campbell) would have required someone to state a reason for needing to vote absentee.  A voter with a disability would need to attest that they cannot vote in person because of their disability. The bill was never considered by the assigned House committee and is defeated.

HB 39 (Scott) would have limited early voting (absentee in person) to 14 days prior to the election. It was approved by the full House but defeated in Senate Privileges and Elections.

HB 36 (Campbell) would have repealed the permanent absentee voter registration, which had made it so that someone with a permanent disability did not have to request an absentee ballot each election. The bill was never considered by the assigned House committee. A Senate companion bill was defeated in committee several weeks ago.

HB 149 (Runion) eliminates the need for a witness signature on absentee ballots. The bill was never considered in the assigned committee.

Curbside votingHB 974 (Simon) would have expanded the definition of disability for those who may receive assistance in voting. Current law limits it to “physical” disability; the proposed legislation would allow it for any disability. This bill was requested by advocates for voters with autism. The bill was defeated in a House subcommittee.

Guardianship and Voting RightsSJ 1 (Locke) is a proposed constitutional amendment that would change how guardianship laws restrict the right to vote. Currently, under the constitution, a court must affirmatively grant the right to vote to someone under guardianship. The proposed amendment would reverse that, presuming a right to vote unless a court to specifically remove that right. SB 21 (Locke) seeks the same result through a voter referendum.  Both resolutions were approved by the Senate but are expected to be defeated on the House side, as House companion resolutions (HJ 9 and HJ 27) already have been defeated.

The disAbility Law Center of Virginia’s mission is to advance independence, choice and self-determination; protect legal, human and civil rights; and eliminate abuse, neglect and discrimination of people with disabilities through zealous and uncompromising legal advocacy and representation. We are available to educate policy makers about the potential impact of legislative proposals and budgetary considerations. Please let us know of any legislative proposals or budget issues that you think we should be following. Contact us at info@dlcv.org or by calling 1-800-552-3962 or 804-225-2042.