Today the whole Senate took up SB 810 (Howell) which permits “no excuse” absentee voting prior to Election Day. The bill passed on a vote of 24-16 with three Repubs crossing over to support. I voted “yes.”
Current Virginia law requires that a voter fit one of 17 categories before voting absentee. The categories are random at best and inconsistently applied. For example, a student can vote absentee if she has class. However, a mother with multiple small children has to wait in line on Election Day. That doesn’t make sense.
Senator Howell’s bill would junk those distinctions and let all registered voters vote in person at the registrar’s office if they so choose in the 45 days before the election. Considering that over 300,000 Virginians voted absentee in 2008, there is great demand for this service.
Critics say that the bill would overwhelm local registrars. However, I would note that these voters are going to vote anyhow (or should anyway). If anything, “no excuse” absentee cuts down on the absentee paperwork and speeds up the process. If our goal is to promote full enfranchisement, then “no excuse” makes sense.
Now it goes on to the House.