Northam proposes voter protection reform
Actions include paid postage, drop-off boxes, opportunities to correct ballots
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a national wave of mail delays, Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday proposed a $2 million allocation for prepaid return postage on absentee ballots, drop-off boxes and drop-off locations for mail-in ballots, as well as a process through which voters can correct their ballots to expand access to voting for the Nov. 3 General Election.
During the past week, U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has come under fire for new policies that have caused mail delays. On Tuesday, however, DeJoy announced that the U.S. Postal Service would halt these measures until after the November general election, saying the U.S. Postal Service is “ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall.” DeJoy has canceled service reductions, reinstated overtime hours for postal workers and stopped the removal of mail-sorting machines and public collection boxes, according to his Tuesday statement.
“As we continue to navigate this pandemic, we must take additional steps to make it easier to vote, not harder,” Northam said in a statement. “With these measures, we will protect public health and ensure Virginians can safely exercise their right to vote in the November election. Whether you put your ballot in the mail or vote in-person, voting will be safe and secure in our commonwealth.”
Northam put forward the proposals during a virtual joint meeting of the House Appropriations, House Finance and Senate Finance committees. The proposals will be considered by legislators during the special General Assembly session, which began Tuesday.
Northam has proposed the following:
- Prepaid postage: Northam’s proposed budget sets aside $2 million for prepaid return postage on all absentee ballots sent out for the Nov. 3 General Election.
- Drop off boxes and drop off locations: Northam’s proposal includes language that permits localities to use drop boxes or create drop off locations for Virginians who choose to vote absentee. Security standards would be set by the Virginia Department of Elections.
- Absentee cure process: This measure would allow Virginia voters to fix an error on their absentee ballot, which Virginians are not currently able to do. Ballots with mistakes are currently discarded.
“Now, we need to help people vote safely,” Northam said in a statement. “All you have to do is turn on the TV to see why this is so important, but please know this: The Department of Elections is already working to prepare to start mailing ballots in just four weeks. For these reforms to matter in November, we must make them now. … The stakes are high for our country. To be clear, voting will be safe and secure in Virginia. Your mailed-in ballots will be counted. Virginia will take every action necessary to protect the vote.”