Judge Rules No Witness Signature Needed for Absentee Ballots

Aug 23, 2020

Normally Virginia voters need to cast an absentee ballot in the presence of a witness.

But a partial settlement will allow Virginians to vote absentee without a witness signature in the upcoming November election due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The partial settlement is an extension of one that was reached before this year’s primary elections, after the League of Women Voters and the ACLU sued the Virginia State Board of Elections to waive a requirement that a witness sign voters’ ballot envelope.

A federal court in Lynchburg approved an agreement that would prevent enforcement of that witness requirement for the November general election. The plaintiffs argued requiring a signature would put an undue burden on voters that live alone or that are susceptible to COVID-19.

Under the agreement, the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections will also inform the public that the witness requirement will not be enforced for voters who think it would be unsafe, and issue guidance to city and county election officials to do the same

The Republican Party of Virginia opposed the agreement, saying it would compromise election security.

The judge that approved the agreement said that there was no evidence that there was more voter confusion or election fraud in the primary election. He also said that the Republican Party of Virginia didn’t provide any evidence to the contrary.

Voters can start sending in their absentee ballots without a witness signature on September 18th.

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