The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is asking Gov. Ralph Northam to waive the witness signature requirement for absentee ballots cast by mail in this fall’s election.
The board voted 9-1 for the proposal by Chair Jeffrey McKay to send a letter to Northam, with Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, the board’s only Republican, casting the only vote against the motion.
McKay said that waiving the witness signature requirement – as was done during the 2020 election – is necessary due to the continued threat of COVID-19. He said several Fairfax residents had shared concerns with him about obtaining witness signatures – arguing they could be exposed to COVID-19 in the process.
“No one should have their ballot rejected because they’re unwilling to risk their health and safety to vote,” McKay said during the meeting. “We want to be a county that promotes voter participation and doesn’t punish people.”
Herrity said that waiving the requirement would be a “blow to election integrity.”
“Witness signatures are important as they provide another line of defense against voter fraud,” he added. “They’ve been deemed important enough by the General Assembly that they were reestablished outside the state of emergency.”
He also argued that waiving the requirement now would be “problematic” because early voting began in mid-September and many absentee ballots have already been mailed.
“To do this in the middle of an election process in the name of COVID I think is nonsensical,” he said.
McKay, however, said there is no election integrity problem.
“Last year we expanded voting opportunities in the midst of the pandemic, as I stated before this county is still in a state of emergency, and we should be doing everything we can to make it as easy as possible for our residents to vote, regardless what of what other elected officials falsely say about elections in Virginia,” McKay said.
Virginia’s state of emergency expired at the end of June, but Fairfax County’s state of emergency remains in effect.