All Virginia voters who are age 65 and older would be able to cast absentee ballots without providing a reason to justify doing so under legislation that has cleared the state Senate.
Some lawmakers and general registrars have been reluctant to support the so-called “no excuse” absentee balloting. The last presidential election was an impetus to chip away at that view.
Under current law, Virginians must provide a reason from an approved list in order to cast an absentee ballot—for example, that the voter will be away on business on election day. But the bill’s sponsor, Newport News Democrat John Miller, told the Senate that voting should be more accessible—especially for seniors.
“I’ve talked to a number of registrars who say a senior citizen will come in and request an absentee ballot, but cannot find an excuse that fits their circumstances, and we’re forcing those folks to lie.”
Virginia Beach’s Republican Senator, Jeff McWaters, agreed, adding that voting is especially difficult for those with disabilities—which was clear in the last election with its lengthy lines.
“And one of the particular issues with poll workers who had to go out to cars and buses to allow people who were not able to get out of their car or bus to go in and vote. It slowed the lines down. And in many cases, there were not enough workers at the polls to even do it, and voters had to go home.”
The bill passed the Senate on a lopsided 28 to 9 vote and now goes to the House.
-by Anne Marie Morgan