Court OKs Virginia AG’s agreement to promote absentee voting

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring says a federal court has approved a consent decree negotiated by his office that promotes safe absentee voting in November’s general election.

In a news release from his office, Herring said that under the consent decree, Virginia will accept absentee ballots without the signature of a witness “for voters who believe they may not safely have a witness present while completing their ballot.”

“This agreement is another big win for Virginia voters and for democracy, and it’s another important step in ensuring that we can have free, fair, safe elections this fall despite the challenges presented by the COVID pandemic,” Herring said.

A group of voters sued Virginia election officials in May over a loosening of restrictions on absentee ballots for the June primary, arguing that the state can’t allow voters to use the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to vote by mail.

Herring argued that state law allows absentee voting during a state of emergency.

The decision comes after Gov. Ralph Northam proposed to set aside $2 million to pay for return postage on all absentee ballots mailed to Virginia voters, as well as allowing drop-off boxes for absentee ballots.

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