I sit on the Privileges and Elections Committee in the Senate. The most controversial issue we will handle this year is SB 69, copatroned by Senators Deeds and Howell, which permits “no excuses” absentee voting.
First, a little context: each Presidential year has seen a successively higher turnout. In 2004, the national turnout exceeded 100 million for the first time. This year, all expectations are that the turnout will be substantially higher.
With higher turnout comes longer wait lines and more stress on our electoral infrastructure. This phenomenom has trickled down to state and local races. For example, voters at Wolf Trap Elementary in Vienna on Election Day 2007 were waiting nearly one hour to vote by the end of the day. And this was during an “off-off year” electoral cycle with only state and local races on the ballot.
Long wait lines discourage the following groups from voting: elderly, disabled, mothers with children, fathers with children, people with jobs, students with class, people with errands to run.
In other words, it discourages everybody.
Senate Bill 69 would alllow anyone to vote by reporting to the registrar and filling out the necessary paperwork prior to election day. No excuse would be necessary. The process would begin once the ballot was finalized and voter registration “locked down” for the election, i.e. 30 days prior to election day.
From other states, it is anticipated that as much as 10-20% of the electorate would take advantage of this privilege, just as many already vote absentee. Others may wait to vote in order to see all the ads (or get all the phone calls). Or wait until the neighborhood polling station is open.
Either way, the passage of SB 69 will open the door to avoiding election day lines.
You’ll have no excuse for not voting.