Virginia House approves significant absentee voting expansion

Major voting changes approved by Virginia’s House of Delegates Thursday include no-excuse absentee voting and extending the deadline for absentee ballots to arrive and be counted.

There were cheers in the chamber as the House voted 65-35 in favor of no-excuse absentee voting. Currently, voters must provide a qualifying reason to vote early. This fall, that is already slated to change for in-person absentee voting only starting two Saturdays before Election Day.

The House also voted unanimously to extend the deadline for absentee ballots to be counted from the current requirement — that they be received by the time polls closed — to a new deadline of noon on the Friday following the election. Ballots would still need to be postmarked before polls close.

In a 53-46 vote, the House endorsed expanding the permanent absentee voter list beyond disabled voters so that you would not need to apply for an absentee ballot separately for each election. For voters getting the ballot sent somewhere in the U.S. other than the address where they are registered to vote, the list would allow a voter to apply for an absentee ballot for both a primary and the following General Election at the same time.

For people voting in person, poll workers would no longer say your address out loud when they check you in. The privacy protection measure passed 100-0.

The House also voted to move the June primary back a week in future years, so it falls after most schools end. The Senate backed a similar bill earlier this week, citing concerns about space conflicts and security at school buildings.

During campaigns, the House voted to require political advertising disclosures in online ads just like those on television or radio, and voted to add text messages to what is covered as a political campaign call.

Each of the House bills now goes to the Senate, which is also controlled by a Democratic majority.

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