Virginia lawmakers this year passed a slew of legislation to make it easier to vote and to encourage greater participation at the polls. While some of those took effect in July, the commonwealth still requires would-be voters to register 22 days in advance of an election.
That’s today, which means folks who want to cast a ballot this year, but who have yet to register, shouldn’t waste another second. It’s also a good reminder for everyone to confirm their registration to ensure they’ll be able to participate in the election next month.
Virginia was once one of the toughest states for voters to cast a ballot. Antiquated laws discouraged participation and suppressed voter turnout, meaning the decisions at the polls often weren’t reflective of the popular will.
That’s an unenviable position, especially when Virginia purports to be the wellspring of democratic thought. The birthplace of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and James Madison, the commonwealth should be supportive of measures which bring more Virginians into the fold.
Heck, Virginia should be a trailblazer for citizen engagement, serving as a model for other states when it comes to voting rather than being reluctant to embrace change (or rejecting such proposals outright).
That changed this year with a series of measures passed by the General Assembly to make voting easier, including making Election Day a state holiday in Virginia and creating a 45-day period for no-excuse early voting.
One took direct aim at the registration process and will allow for automatic registration of eligible voters who request service through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. That’s not a new idea — it builds on a framework established by a 1993 federal bill that allowed DMV officers to accept registration forms — but a welcome one in Virginia.
For now, Virginia also has in place rules that voters be registered at least 22 days before an election, an unnecessary requirement in our technological age. The General Assembly approved legislation this year that will allow voters to register the same day as an election — joining 21 states and the District of Columbia which already offer same-day registration — but it takes effect in 2022.
That means eligible Virginians who are not yet registered to vote must do so today if they intend to cast a ballot in this year’s election. Here’s how:
Anyone 18 years old on Nov. 3, who is a citizen of the United States and a resident of the commonwealth, and who has a valid Virginia DMV driver’s license or state ID card is eligible. Those who have been convicted of a felony, but have not had their rights restored, or who have been judged to be mentally incapacitated are not eligible.
To register online, visit elections.virginia.gov/citizen-portal/ and submit a form through that citizen portal. You can visit your local registrar’s office to complete a form there or mail in a form, though it must be postmarked by Oct. 13 to be considered valid. The deadline is 5 p.m. today.
Voters can also go to that citizen portal to verify their registration information prior to casting a ballot. Those planning to cast a ballot on Election Day — and there are many people determined to vote on Nov. 3 — would do well to confirm their eligibility today to make sure they’re all set to vote in three weeks.
Virginia’s embrace of early-voting options has delivered an unprecedented number of ballots since polls opened on Sept. 18.
According to the Virginia Public Access Project, an invaluable resource for information about voting and elections in the commonwealth, some 1.6 million people have already cast an early ballot or requested a mail-in ballot. That far outpaces participation in 2016 and could deliver a record turnout figure when polls close on Nov. 3.
For those not yet registered, there’s no time to waste. Head to the online election portal, complete the required form and make a plan to vote.
©2020 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)
Visit The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) at pilotonline.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.