First lady Dorothy McAuliffe cast an absentee ballot on Tuesday morning at the voter registrar’s office in Richmond, highlighting the opportunity to cast a vote in Virginia ahead of Election Day.
But her vote also demonstrated that Virginia is in the minority of states when it comes to early voting because it requires voters to offer an acceptable excuse as to why they can’t vote in person on Election Day.
In 37 states and the District of Columbia, some period of early voting is allowed and “no excuse or justification is required,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
As of January, Virginia was one of 13 states that required an excuse for absentee voting before Election Day, along with Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi.
In order to cast an early ballot in Virginia, a voter must cite one of 19 excuses deemed acceptable under state law, such as military service, illness, being away from home, pregnancy, and a long commute tacked on to a long workday.
The first lady of Virginia’s excuse was that she would be out of town on personal business. Why is it necessary for any of us to provide an excuse? Is this our paternalistic General Assembly once again deciding what is best for us or is this law more nefarious? Is our Republican-controlled General Assembly attempting to suppress our votes?
If you vote early, vote absentee or vote by mail, Virginians must provide a reason. There are 19. Technically, Virginia does not have early voting which is sort of “no fault” voting. In Virginia a citizen must always provide a reason if they don’t go to the official polling place on the official day.
I want a window of opportunity where I can vote early, vote by mail, or walk into a satellite office and cast my ballot. I don’t want to stretch the truth or out and out lie in order to exercise my right to vote.
Virginians need to demand that the General Assembly change the laws to making voting easier. Do not accept no for an answer. There really is no acceptable reason not to open up this window of opportunity.