As indicated in today’s press release:

COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
Office of the Governor

Timothy M. Kaine                                         FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
     Governor                                                          January 7, 2009

Contact:                 Gordon Hickey
Phone:                   (804) 225-4260
Cell Phone:           (804) 291-8977
Internet:                www.governor.virginia.gov

GOVERNOR KAINE ANNOUNCES LEGISLATION TO EXPAND ABSENTEE VOTING

~ Legislation will allow all voters to cast an absentee ballot in-person ~

 RICHMOND – Governor Timothy M. Kaine today proposed legislation to allow for no-excuse, in-person absentee voting in Virginia. The proposed legislation would allow any qualified voter to cast an absentee ballot in person at their registrar’s office during the 45 day absentee voting period, without providing an excuse or reason. Those wishing to vote absentee by mail would still be required to meet one of the existing statutory requirements.

       Standing with Senator Janet Howell and Delegates Robert Brink and Rosalyn Dance, as well as leaders of the League of Women Voters of Virginia, Virginia Electoral Board Association and Voter Registrars Association of Virginia, Governor Kaine emphasized the benefits of expanding early voting opportunities.

             “Virginia has a long history of running outstanding elections, but this year showed that high volume can cause problems in a process that should be as smooth as possible,” Governor Kaine said. “By allowing all voters to cast an absentee ballot in person, we can remove some of the practical barriers that prevent people from participating in the democratic process.”

           Long lines on Election Day drive down participation and increase the likelihood of problems at polling places. Allowing for no-excuse, in-person absentee voting would spread the workload of local registrars and poll workers over the entire 45 day absentee voting period, reducing crowding on Election Day without compromising the security or integrity of the electoral process.

             There are 17 reasons that qualify a voter to cast an absentee ballot, and bills are frequently proposed to add more. Eliminating the need to provide an excuse will streamline the process and make it an option for more voters. In the most recent statewide election, 320,000 absentee ballots were cast in person by voters meeting the eligibility requirements. Twenty six other states currently offer a no-excuse alternative voting time.

 Senator Janet Howell will patron the bill, SB810, in the Senate. “This expansion of absentee voting recognizes the realities of citizens’ busy lives and gives them more opportunity to engage in their civic duty,” Senator Howell said. “An emergency at work or in the family on Election Day should not disqualify a person from participating in an election.”

 Delegate Rosalyn Dance will patron the same bill in the House. “During the recent Presidential Election many citizens were surprised to learn that they may be eligible to vote by absentee ballot,” Delegate Dance said. “Once informed, Petersburg went from about 600 residents voting absentee in 2004 to well over 3,500 in 2008.  No-excuse absentee voting allows all voters even greater flexibility to exercise their right to vote in person at a time and place that is convenient.”

             No-excuse, in-person absentee voting has the support of the Virginia Electoral Board Association, the League of Women Voters, and the Voter Registrars Association of Virginia.

             “Many people cannot take time off on a weekday to stand in line to vote, their jobs and schedules won’t allow it. By implementing no-excuse, in-person absentee throughout Virginia we can face the reality that we live in a busy world and not everyone has the luxury of voting in person on a Tuesday,” said Olga Hernandez, president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. “When voters realized last fall that they may be eligible for absentee voting, they took advantage of it in great numbers and no problems were encountered that could not be resolved as long as they were duly registered.”

             “With the current fiscal situation, there is no money for additional equipment to serve the ever-growing number of voters. No-excuse, in-person absentee voting provides free, convenient access to get the maximum number of people to vote within the timeframe of the election,” said Stan Gorrell, chair of the legislative committee of the Virginia Electoral Board Association. “We feel this brings more voters in to vote.”

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