With the long lines voters experienced at polling places last Election Day still fresh in legislators’ minds, the Virginia General Assembly is considering a slate of bills aimed at easing the strain on polling places.
The more than two dozen bills introduced this session included proposals include extending voting hours, increase the use of technology to make systems more efficient and making it easier for people to vote early.
Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Dist. 41), of Springfield, is the lead sponsor of a bill that would keep polls open until 8 p.m., instead of 7 p.m.
“I think we need to make it easier to vote by reducing obstacles,” she said.
Work, traffic and family errands can all get in the way of Northern Virginia voters getting to the polls in time, Filler-Corn said.
Although she said in an earlier interview that she thought extending voting hours should be a nonpartisan, commonsense issue, Filler-Corn’s bill quickly met the fate of other Democratic-sponsored election proposals and was tabled in a subcommittee in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates on Wednesday.
Her legislation was part of a group of bills that the House Democratic Caucus is pushing this year that also includes establishing early voting.
Virginia currently allows in-person absentee voting, which is similar to early voting but is only open to voters who qualify to vote absentee.
A bill by Roanoke Del. Onzlee Ware (D-Dist. 11) would allow any registered voter to cast a ballot three to 19 days prior to Election Day. Other legislators proposed allowing people over age 65 and parents of young children to vote absentee.
A number of the proposals that would have broadened absentee voting to all voters or established early voting were tabled in a House Privileges and Elections subcommittee on Tuesday. Ware’s bill is one of the few similar House bills that has not yet been killed.
One bill that emerged from that subcommittee with broad bipartisan support would allow people 65 or older to vote absentee.
“After experiencing long lines and record wait times in the last election, this legislation is a commonsense solution that will improve the overall efficiency of the election process while making it easier for Virginia’s senior citizens to have their voices heard,” said Arlington Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Dist. 49), who sponsored one of the versions of this bill.
Officials at the county and federal levels are also looking at ways to improve the elections process in response to the challenges of the fall presidential elections.