WASHINGTON — While Republicans across the country double down on efforts to suppress the vote during an unprecedented global public health crisis, Democrats in Virginia passed massive reforms that will greatly increase access to the ballot box.
After winning control of the General Assembly for the first time in over two decades, Democrats passed a groundbreaking legislative package of voting reforms, including automatic voter registration, making election day a holiday, allowing no-excuse early and mail-in voting, and repealing the discriminatory voter ID requirement. Governor Ralph Northam signed the package into law over the weekend, revolutionizing elections in the commonwealth.
“When it comes to voting rights, the difference between the parties could not be clearer,” said Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee President Jessica Post. “While Democrats are doing everything they can to make sure every voter can fairly and safely cast a ballot this year, Republicans are taking their voter suppression playbook to new lows. Fair and free elections are fundamental to our democracy, and as a Virginia voter myself I’m so proud of the progress our elected leaders have made to protect our elections.”
The coronavirus pandemic made the need to expand access to voting more urgent, but Republicans have — unsurprisingly — used their power to undermine voters. Even as election administrators advocate for solutions that will make it easier to hold elections, Republicans are blocking commonsense reforms over fears that higher participation will doom their electoral prospects.
In a particularly galling example, the Wisconsin GOP last week refused to postpone the state’s primary election or expand absentee voting despite widespread polling place closures and a stay-at-home order. Voters were forced to choose between exercising their fundamental voting rights and risking their health. Robin Vos, the Republican Assembly speaker, proclaimed it was safe to vote even as he was decked out in personal protective equipment.
That level of hypocrisy is hardly limited to Wisconsin. President Trump has led the charge against mail voting, even though he availed himself of the option in past elections. Despite the rhetoric from the pinnacle of their leadership, Republicans across the country quietly encouraged their own voters to cast their ballots by mail.
“The saddest part is that this phenomenon is hardly new,” added Post. “The GOP has stood in the way of fair elections for years. Their latest antics just make it clear: the only way to protect our democracy is to ensure we elect Democrats at all levels of the ballot in November.”