Virginia, the Previous Confederacy’s Coronary heart, Turns into a Voting Rights Bastion

The state’s voting rights act is being signed into regulation by a governor whose profession was nearly derailed by a blackface scandal in 2019. Since then, Mr. Northam has been on the forefront of a number of the state’s racial justice initiatives and has enjoyed high approval ratings. He mentioned on Wednesday that the Virginia regulation ought to turn out to be a mannequin for the nation.

“At a time when voting rights are beneath assault throughout our nation, Virginia is increasing entry to the poll field, not limiting it,” Mr. Northam mentioned. “Our Commonwealth is making a mannequin for a way states can present complete voter protections that strengthen democracy and the integrity of our elections.”

Virginia’s flip away from its longtime restrictions on voting rights started in 2016, when Gov. Terry McAuliffe restored voting rights to 206,000 felons within the state over the objections of the Republican-led Common Meeting and the state’s Supreme Courtroom. After the courtroom dominated that Mr. McAuliffe didn’t have the authority to revive felon voting rights en masse, however could do so case by case, he despatched 206,000 particular person voting rights restoration letters to felons, who had been despatched envelopes with a Virginia voter software kind and a self-addressed stamped envelope.

“To me it was an ethical, civil rights difficulty and this was a racist Jim Crow regulation that wanted to be eradicated,” Mr. McAuliffe mentioned on Wednesday.

As soon as Democrats took full management of state authorities final yr, one of many first payments they handed created one of many longest early-voting intervals within the nation — a 45-day window for no-excuse absentee voting, through which individuals can vote remotely with out having to supply a rationale. More than 2.8 million Virginians voted early within the 2020 election, almost 5 instances as many as did so in 2016.

“That is what my ancestors fought onerous for,” mentioned Charniele Herring, the creator of the early voting invoice, who final yr turned the primary Black majority chief within the Virginia Home of Delegates. “My mother and father needed to have that wrestle within the ’60s, and that is the time to cease that wrestle and to guard all people’s proper to vote, regardless of their political affiliation.”

Republican state legislators all opposed the Virginia Voting Rights Act, arguing that it will inundate native election directors with lawsuits and complicate routine modifications to voting. Glenn Davis, a Republican delegate from Virginia Beach who’s operating for lieutenant governor, mentioned it was “easy human nature” that Democrats’ efforts to make voting simpler, like eliminating Virginia’s photograph identification requirement, would end in extra fraud.

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