Senate Republicans Do Nothing To Help People Vote

Today, on a day when the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee does not regularly meet, Senate Republicans continued to push their radical agenda to take Virginia backwards. In a series of party-line votes, Republican Senators rejected bills that would have made it easier for Virginians to vote.

Republicans were unwilling to address even the most obvious problem from the recent elections: record-breaking lines. Republicans defeated bills from Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Arlington) (SB 968) and Senator George Barker (D-Fairfax) (SB 1151) that would have extended polling hours and reduced lines in future elections.

“I think we have a fundamental responsibility to make sure that the voters have reasonable access to be able to cast their votes,” said Senator Barker. “When we can point to a precinct where 150 people waited for two, three, or four hours in line, and then left without voting, shame on us.”

Republicans also rejected a measure to make absentee voting easier (SB 967). They defeated a plan by Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath County) to send voters a new ID card every year (SB 883). And they killed a comprehensive electoral reform package offered by Senator Mark Herring (D-Loudon), which would have extended poll hours, pushed back registration deadlines, and allowed early voting in Virginia (SB 1062).

“This past November, Virginians waited up to five hours to vote at some polling locations across our state and that is completely unacceptable,” Senator Herring stated. “Instead of making voting easier, Senator Obenshain and the Republicans want to make voting harder for Virginians by sponsoring voter ID legislation. Erecting unnecessary barriers to voting is the wrong approach.”

Republicans did agree to one reform, however: they voted not to disenfranchise Virginians who accidentally omit their middle names from absentee ballot envelopes.

Senator Chap Peterson (D-Fairfax) expressed frustration with the Committee’s missed opportunities, a frustration shared by his fellow Democratic Senators.

“The purpose of this Committee is to enable people to participate in the democratic process. What happened in November was that millions of people had to wait for hours in line. And the cost to our economy alone is in the millions of dollars from people who couldn't go to work that day. For this committee to constantly be challenging these bills on picayune details—it doesn’t make sense. Either we're trying to help people vote here, or we're not.”

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