Majority of GOP committee members oppose multiple needed reforms

RICHMOND — This afternoon, Democrats on the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections championed bills to make voting easier. One of those bills failed along party lines; at least one other reported narrowly, when a single Republican joined all six Democrats in support.
Among the bills the committee considered today:

  • pre-paid postage for all absentee voters — Sen. Barbara Favola’s (D - Arlington) SB 84 was defeated in a 6-7 party-line vote
  • no-excuse in-person absentee voting — Sen. Rosalyn Dance’s (D - Petersburg) SB 106 reported in a 7-6 vote along near-party lines; Sen. Janet Howell’s (D - Fairfax) SB 603 reported, as well
  • no-excuse absentee voting for senior citizens — Sen. John Miller’s (D - Newport News) SB 188, chief co-patroned by Sens. George Barker (D - Fairfax), Jennifer Wexton (D - Loudoun), and John Edwards (D - Roanoke), advanced on a bipartisan basis, with one Republican senator voting “no”

Said caucus chair Sen. Donald McEachin (D - Henrico), “It’s not enough to help senior citizens — we need to help every citizen. We need to make voting easier; too often, some of my colleagues have pushed for new barriers. Our democracy can only work if every voice is heard.”

Said Sen. Favola, “No one should have to pay in order to vote, and all voters should be equal — no one person should face barriers or costs that others do not. Some absentee voters already have access to pre-paid postage. I’m disappointed my Republican colleagues chose not to extend that same opportunity to everyone.”

Said Sen. Dance, “I believe that SB 106 will allow people to easily comprehend the law and increase participation in the electoral process. In today’s society, many people are not able to get to their home polling location on Election Day and so the option to vote absentee is crucial to ensuring that we do not disenfranchise these voters. Currently, there are 19 statutory reasons to vote absentee and over the last several years there have been bills proposed to add more excuses to that list. The public is already confused about the absentee ballot application process and I believe SB 106 simplifies the process. I am pleased that the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee voted to report the bill this afternoon. I look forward to pushing it through the Senate and then to the House.”

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