Virginia Advances Legislation to Make it Easier to Cast an Absentee Ballot

Processed mail-in ballots are seen at an elections office prior to a primary election. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

By Arianna Coghill

August 25, 2020

The General Election is only 71 days away and Virginia is expecting a major increase in mail-in ballots.

Virginia lawmakers advanced legislation to make it easier for voters to cast absentee ballots this November, as the commonwealth expects to see a huge increase in mail-in votes. 

READ MORE: Voting by Mail in the General Election: Here’s What Virginians Need to Know

If passed, the proposals would provide $2 million dollars to cover the cost of prepaid postage, install drop boxes, and establish a process to allow voters to fix mistakes on improperly submitted ballots.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has been repeatedly attacked by President Donald Trump and the GOP in recent weeks, even though absentee voting, which relies on the postal service, can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Gov. Ralph Northam, who included the absentee voting proposals in his main priorities for the General Assembly’s special session, spoke out against Trump’s misinformation about the integrity of voting by mail, accusing the president of voter suppression. 

“This is a deeply troubling development in what is becoming a clear pattern of attempted voter suppression by the Trump administration,” Gov. Northam said in a statement. “I am committed to making sure all Virginians have access to the ballot box, and will continue to work with state and federal lawmakers to ensure safe, secure, and accessible elections this fall.”

Recently, the USPS sent letters to 46 states, including Virginia, warning that potentially millions of absentee votes could go uncounted due to mailing delays. 

“The Postal Service is well prepared and has ample capacity to deliver America’s election mail,” the USPS said in a statement. “However, the increases in volume and the effect of when volumes were mailed in the primary elections presented a need to ensure the Postal Service’s recommendations were reemphasized to elections officials.”

READ MORE: Postal Service Warns Virginia Votes Could Go Uncounted Due to Mailing Delays

Despite the general election being only 71 days away, Republican lawmakers have argued that the money towards prepaid postage should be spent elsewhere.

 “That’s a big chunk of change,” said Former GOP House Speaker Del. Kirk Cox reported WRIC

Virginia Democrats have countered that these new bills are necessary to aid the postal service in these unprecedented times. Democrats have said that voters need reassurance that their votes arrive on time to be counted. 

According to ABC 13, Northam has encouraged lawmakers to get these proposals approved as quickly as possible. The proposals are now headed to the General Assembly Senate and House for further consideration in a full vote. 

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