Virginia repeals ID law, relaxes rules on absentee

Last year, for the first time in more than a quarter-century, Democrats in Virginia took control of the statehouse and the governor’s mansion. Since then, one priority has become clear: expanding voting rights.

Once home to the capital of the Confederacy, Virginia has made Election Day a state holiday, repealed a voter identification law and allowed no-excuse absentee voting. Earlier this year, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam approved a sweeping voting rights act, reinstating election rules once required by federal law to prevent racial discrimination.

Other Democratic states also are acting to remove restrictions to the ballot – in marked contrast to many Republican-controlled states that are moving in the opposite direction. Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Iowa have already passed restrictive voting laws; Ohio and Texas are considering their own.

“It was kind of surreal to know that we had the power to change something in 2021 that we had been working on for my entire lifetime,” said Del. Marcia Price, a Virginia Democrat who sponsored the Voting Rights Act of Virginia. “I think the contrast is becoming so clear of what democracy looks like and what impeding democracy looks like.”

More than 800 bills have been filed in 47 states this year with provisions that would expand voting rights, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a public policy group that advocates for voting access. A majority of the proposals focus on absentee voting, while others are meant to make it easier to register to vote or restore voting rights for those with prior criminal convictions.

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