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Responsive Gov’s Grade TL;DR

This past session, the Virginia Assembly removed a significant impediment to absentee voting in the state by repealing the burdensome witness requirements. Unfortunately, Governor Youngkin took several actions to move the state’s elections laws backwards, particularly in maintaining secure voter rolls and increasing voter access. Overall, the anti-voter measures undertaken by the governor will have a more profound impact on voting in the state. Therefore, Virginia received a D+ on this year’s progress report.

Looking Back

Where Virginia Started at the Beginning of 2023

  • Automatic Voter Registration: Partial AVR
  • Online Voter Registration: DMV ID
  • Same-Day Registration: Yes
  • Restoration of Rights: Some Permanent Disenfranchisement
  • Vote by Mail: No-Excuse
  • Electronic Registration Information Center Member: Yes
  • Early Voting Opportunities: In-person Absentee
  • ID Requirements: ID Requested, but not Required

Relying on the Cost of Voting Index for Virginia as of 2022, we considered the state a top tier state for pre-existing voting policy and compared its 2023 activity against other top tier states.

How Our Tier Compares

  • COVI (2022): 11th
  • EPI Score (2020): 18th
  • CLC State Scorecard (2022): 9/10
  • MAP Democracy Rating (2022): MEDIUM

2023: This Past Year

Legislative Action

The Assembly made a significant pro-voter improvement to the absentee ballot process this past session.

  • H 1948 repealed the onerous witness requirement for absentee ballots and replaced it with a more voter-friendly requirement to include the last four digits of the voter’s SSN and birth year on their ballot envelope.
  • H 2471/S 1514 changes the removal process for registrars that fail to perform their duties.

Executive Action

  • Last year, Governor Youngkin announced that he was ceasing a previous executive practice of automatically restoring voting rights to returning citizens upon release from prison. Instead, individuals convicted of a felony return to a default rule of disenfranchisement and in order to have their rights restored, they must file an application which will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis for potential restoration. This process is currently the subject of ongoing litigation.
  • In addition, under pressure from Governor Youngkin, Virginia, despite being one of the founding member-states of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), resigned from the list maintenance organization last year. Instead, the state has opted to sign individual agreements with a handful of neighboring states and utilize less reliable data sources in an attempt to keep the voter rolls up-to-date.