Transcript of “Rights Here, Rights Now

Episode 18: Updated Voting Laws in Virginia

Produced by the disAbility Law Center of Virginia.                                                            

[NARRATOR]:             The information provided on this podcast does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Instead, all information, content and materials available are for general informational purposes only.

[Intro Music: Light rhythmic percussion beats, finger snaps & hand claps]

Welcome To Rights Here, Rights Now, the podcast about disability, advocacy, and activism.


[REN]:                          I'm your Advocate host, Ren Faszewski.

[VIRGINIA]:                 And I'm your Advocate host Virginia Pharis.


[REN]:                          Every two weeks we've taken to relevant issues, current events, and avenues for self-advocacy.


[VIRGINIA]:                 Someone has to.


[REN]:                          And it might as well be us!


[VIRGINIA]:                 This podcast is produced by the Disability Law Center of Virginia, the Commonwealth’s protection and advocacy agency for disability rights.


***Find out more at***


[VIRGINIA]:                 Okay Ren…we have a good one!  We have one that’s going to be exciting and surprising to you, this week!


[REN]:                          Oh?


[VIRGINIA]:                 Because (pause) I had a chance to sit down with, um, Joliefawn Liddell. We have had [her] on one of our podcasts before.  And two of our-


[REN]:                          She’s delightful!


[VIRGINIA]:                 She’s the best.  And we got two of our new legal interns, and they’re going to be telling us about…everything that has changed this year regarding voting.


[REN]:                          Has there really been changes? Has anything changed?? (Laughter.)


[VIRGINIA]:                 There may have been a couple of changes. There may have been a couple of light changes. (Ha!) But before that, let’s check out disability in the news.


[Sound effects.]


Hello, my name is Hannah Setzer and I am an advocate at dLCV.  Major rideshare company Lyft is agreeing to change their ways after a settlement agreement with the US Department of Justice.  Lyft had been accused of denying rides to people with disabilities, therefore violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.  A man who uses a wheelchair filed dozens of complaints with Lyft saying Los Angeles drivers refused to drive him or could not transport him due to his wheelchair. 


Lyft has agreed to implement a complaint procedure that adheres to federal law and would hold drivers responsible for complying with their new wheelchair policy.  This new policy ensures people using foldable wheelchairs and walkers have equal access to rides.  Drivers can face punishment, including possible termination, if they do not comply with new policies. If a rider makes a plausible complaint they will receive a full refund and a $10 credit for a future Lyft ride.


Lyft is also required to pay between $4000-30,000 in damages to the four individuals whose complaints led to the settlement and Lyft will be paying $40,000 to the government due to a civil penalty and will also issue biannual reports to the Justice Department over the next three years outlining continued efforts to adhere to the ADA.  During the settlement Lyft denied being subject to the ADA, as well as denying any discrimination or wrongdoing.


[VIRGINIA]:                 Today we have, in the studio, our voting on everything EXPERT Joliefawn Liddell…


And, we also have two of our brand new legal interns, we have: Camille Karabaich and Mary Grace Whitten. So thank you guys for joining us!


[Enter Joliefawn & interns]


[JOLIEFAWN]:             Thank you for having us!


[VIRGINIA]:                 All right, so, I have some pressing voting questions for you guys. First of all, it seems like there’s an election right around the corner… are there any registration deadlines I need to know about?


[JOLIEFAWN]:             The deadlines are October 13th, to register.


[VIRGINIA]:                 And that’s for the November general election?


[JOLIEFAWN]:             Yes.


[VIRGINIA]:                 Okay, and what about if I need an absentee ballot? Like-what- first of all, what even is absentee voting?? Have we talked about that before?


[JOLIEFAWN]:             Yes, and I think Camille’s going to talk about the absentee ballots.


[Enter Camille]


[CAMILLE]:                  Yes. Sure. So when you register to vote you get your ballot in advance. So, sometimes you’ll hear absentee voting referred to as early voting. It used to be the case that you had to have a specific, pre-approved reason to vote absentee, but for 2020 that requirement has been lifted, which is-means- that anyone can vote absentee.  Which is really nice, because it’s a much more flexible voting option.  Absentee voting is great for people who work during polling place hours, which are only 6am to 7pm, or who want to avoid crowds during Coronavirus.


You can request an absentee ballot in person or online, and you can complete you ballot in person or by mail. For the mail-in option, you ballot is mailed to you with instructions for completion and you mail it back to your general Registrar’s office- before election day- Um, and for the in person option, you just go to your local registrar’s office, and you’re given a ballot to complete in person on the spot. 


Due to Coronavirus, some localities are also opening additional satellite sites, which are just additional locations where you can vote absentee in person. So if you think that’s a good option for you, just be sure to check and see if there are satellite sites located near you.




[VIRGINIA]:                 All right, thank you. And for those of you at home who don’t, or who’ve never voted with a mail in ballot, I will just say, because this job requires a lot of travel, I have voted mail-in ballot for I think every election since about 2009. And, it’s worked for me every time, it’s a beautiful system, & hopefully people who haven’t had access to that before, can access it now & stay safe and stay healthy. Mary Grace- I feel like there have been some changes to the voting ID laws. You want to tell me about those?


[Enter Mary Grace Whitten]


[MARY GRACE]:          You would be right! (VA laughs) There’s been a huge change. So, one of the most influential bills that I think was past session was the removal of photo ID requirement for the voters…[pause].  So it replaces the requirement that you have to have an ID with the photo on it, and you can use a wide range of documents in order to vote in person this year.


So, things that you could go to the polls with that would allow you to vote would be things like a voter registration conformation document, a form of identification that has been issued by Virginia, or, one of its political subdivisions, which according to my research means things that are like: Cities, counties, boroughs. Or anything by the U.S. government that has been issued to you. You can also use your Virginia driver’s license, and it doesn’t matter if it’s expired. You can also use a US passport, your (a) current utility bill, or a bank statement, a government check, a paycheck, or any other government document that just contains your address or your name.


You can also use a student I.D. from a private school or an institute of higher education in the state. And for this there does not need to be a photo. Or you could use a student Identification from an institute of higher education in the U.S. or U.S. territories.  And this is actually part of another bill, that was also passed this session, that removed the requirement that you could only use I.D.’s from higher education from the institutions in the state. So that’s a big deal, as well. And this is I think showing how kind of expansive these voter ID laws have been. 


And so really you can use a lot of different things to vote. And then lastly, you can also use a photo I.D. from a regular employer.  So, if you go to the polls and you don’t have any of these things, you can sign a statement that basically confirms you are who you say you are.  And then if you sign that you can cast a regular ballot. If you don’t sign the statement, then you can just vote with a provisional ballot.  And provisional ballots—are a little bit- they get sent- sent in and then you have to basically show your documentation by the time they will be counted.  There’s a little bit more work that’s required after that, but there is still an opportunity to vote if you don’t want to sign the statement and if you don’t have an I.D.


[VIRGINIA]:                 Thank you so much. Now, normally- and Joliefawn, I’m going to ask you about this because of volunteer opportunities, but it does sound like, first and foremost, that the best thing people can do to make sure that they’re making a difference is by going out there and VOTING.  And, voting for what they feel is right, voting for advancement for the rights of people with disabilities, but, if people want to get out there and help the Disability Law Center of Virginia specifically, when it comes to voting, um- Jo, is there anything they can do about that?


[JOLIEFAWN]:             Right now, due to CV, it’s really hard for me to say what our efforts are going to be. In our physical 2021. But right now, we are just kind of developing our efforts to get the new laws out there. Understanding what we need to do as far as getting the information out there. Getting our new questions, our new website, as far, as our questionnaire out there, um, making sure Virginian’s know what these changes are come November…knowing that they know what they can do, ‘& what they need to know when they are out there.  


So that is going to be our big push- getting the fact sheets, getting the information, pointing everyone to our website, so they can let us know what’s going on- Volunteers, in that aspect, are going to be key for us, Getting everyone out there, you know, shooting, getting everybody registered, getting that information out there.  That is going to be the volunteers that we need- To make sure that: persons with disabilities are registered, persons with disabilities are—that they know- what the new information is, what the new law is, and not get discouraged when they go out there.


If they don’t have this ID, no one is going to know that they CAN still vote—knowing that they can vote absentee, AND if they’re having any issues or concerns about absentee, what they need to know- is the alternative plans, too…So that’s our job to make sure that that happens.


[VIRGINIA]:                 And Jo, so: If people want to let dLCV know how they- that they’re- how their voting experience was, what’s the best way for them to do that?


[JOLIEFAWN]:             On the website- we’ll be creating- a Voter Online Survey- that you can submit your experience there.  And it will be shot straight to my email, and I can review them.  There also will be a postcard system that we can allow for volunteers to utilize, to mail back to us, that will share, that would share, with us, their experiences at the polling sites. If you go in person.  Um, and then the website is also there to…just answer some questions.  Telling us, either in, one way- if you submitted an absentee ballot, because we want to kind of know, what that experience was like, too.  


And I also want to know, what your experience was (or was like) if you went and voted in person. Because- we need to see what that is like. So, we will have the volunteer who’ll go out to vote at their own polling site, if they choose, and to share with us what that experience was like. So we would do two experiences, uh, voting ON CARD that we will send out to volunteers and then we’ll also have an electronic version that will come back to me. In my email, that will share that absentee ballot experience with me [us] as well. 


So we’re still developing those two versions, but it’ll be a way for everyone to get involved. To let us know, um, what that was like.


[Brief pause.]


[VIRGINIA]:                 So, one more time, the deadline to register to vote isss…


[JOLIEFAWN]:             October 13th 2020.


[VIRGINIA]:                 October 13th 2020. And the deadline to register for an absentee ballot is?


[JOLIEFAWN]:             It’s October 23rd! And if you want to register in person, it’s the 31st of October.


[VIRGINIA]:                 So Camille before we go- is there anything else people need to know about absentee voting, before they register for that?


[CAMILLE]:                  Yeah, there are a couple of things just to keep in mind. So the first one is that if you’re registering to vote for the FIRST time this year, there is a five day waiting period between when you register and when you can request to vote absentee.  So you can just keep that extra time in mind. If that applies to you.  Second, I would just make sure that you submit your absentee ballot on the date as it is instructed for your mail in ballot.  And the rule is that if ballots are postmarked on or before Election Day, and received by noon, three days after Election Day, they’ll be counted. 


So you just want to make sure that your vote, you know, gets in on time. And finally:  You’ll want to remember that even though you’re not voting at a traditional voting place, you are still going to need one of those forms of I.D., as Mary Grace mentioned earlier in the podcast. And one more final thing- I said “finally” twice, but this is the final, final thing: It’s just that there’s an additional kind of absentee ballot that you want to be aware of – this is called an emergency absentee ballot, so, just like the name says, this is for if there is some sort of emergency that keeps you from being able to vote.  So if you’re hospitalized, or, if there’s a death in the immediate family, and you missed the a. registration deadline, or you’re unable to vote in person, then you can request this emergency absentee ballot.


I definitely lied—there’s one more thing! [LOL.] There’s one more thing that you need to know: so, absentee ballots normally require a witness, to certify that you’re the one who completed your ballot. Um, but due to Coronavirus this requirement has been waived, so… If you don’t feel safe having a witness present while you vote then you don’t have to have one.


[VIRGINIA]:                 That’s so smart, because, you know, otherwise, I was wondering how I was going to get my little chihauhaus to sign that document, and this is going to save us a lot of trouble. Thank you so much! Is there anything else out there that people need to know about the 2020 General Election, about registering, voting, all of that?


[JOLIEFAWN]:             Just please keep the lookout on our website. We will have additional facts and information posted that we could not add to this podcast. But people look out for our voting website for additional information.


[VIRGINIA]:                 Yes. And as always, if you have any questions about what your rights are, as a person with a disability trying to vote, you can call us at, uhh: 800-552-3962. Or, again- visit us online at  Guys, thank you so much for coming in, and we hope to talk to you again soon.


[JOLIEFAWN]:             Thank you for having us.


[MARY GRACE]:          Thanks for having us.


[CAMILLE]:                  Thank you.      


Now a dLCV Highlight:


[NARRATOR]:             John is a 75-year-old man with mental illness who has been a patient at a state psychiatric facility for over five years. He was determined to be ready for discharge and placed on the Extraordinary Barriers List, where he waited for over 1000 days for a new home in the community. dLCV began working with him and, with intensive advocacy and collaboration with the hospital, community services board, and the Department of Behavioral Health, John was successfully discharged into his new community placement where he could be close to his family.


[REN]:                          Well like always, I’ve been blown away by Joliefawn. I always learn so much when she’s on this podcast. I know we all have our niche areas but it’s incredible how many changes happen so quickly in terms of voting but I am suitably informed.


[VIRGINIA]:                 Absolutely. So, everybody please register to vote if you haven’t already. And use these time frames and deadlines we talked about to make sure you get everything you need to be able to vote in time to vote.


[REN]:                          And I believe there are resources on our website if I’m not mistaken?


[VIRGINIA]:                 Yes as always, we have resources on our website which is at


[REN]:                          And thank you guys for all listening to this episode of Rights Here, Rights Now, which is brought to you by dLCV.  We are available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.


[VIRGINIA]:                 If you need more information or want to learn more about what we do you can check out more at our website,


[REN]:                          Or you can follow us on Twitter @DisabilityLawVA and share us with your friends.


[VIRGINIA]:                 Until next time, I’m Virginia Pharis.


[REN]:                          And I’m Ren Faszewski and this has been.


[VIRGINIA]:                 Rights Here


[REN]:                          Rights Now.


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