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Voting in a Pandemic: State Lawmakers Working to Establish Protections for November Election

AP Photo / Steve Helber

With a little more than two months to go before the nation’s first pandemic presidential election, lawmakers in Virginia’s General Assembly are fast tracking a measure to establish socially-distant election protocols. Monday, members of the House of Delegates pushed full speed ahead.

Democratic lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee voted in favor of a bill that would let voters correct mistakes on absentee ballot envelopes, direct registrars and localities to set up drop off locations and provide $2 million in prepaid postage for the return of absentee ballots.

“Any changes we make to facilitate secure and efficient voting must be put in place as soon as possible in time for the election,” says committee chair Delegate Luke Torian.

He says he’s hoping the standalone budget bill will pass before what he describes as ‘the more exhaustive’ review of Governor Northam’s overall budget recommendations.

Some Republicans argue that logistical issues could result from drop boxes, and others, like Delegate Glenn Davis, say that money might be better spent elsewhere.

“I understand that we want to make it easier, not harder, to vote, but we also want to make it easier and not harder on families,” he says.

Davis says education and healthcare spending should be prioritized.

Advocates point out that the measure is intended to help minimize contact between voters and poll workers at a time when there is still no vaccine or treatment for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, a companion bill is working its way through the Senate.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.