Early voting good move

Published 10:55 pm Friday, February 22, 2019

Passing what the General Assembly is calling no-excuse absentee voting — in other words, early voting — is good for the commonwealth.

With this week’s vote, in the 2020 November general election, voters in Virginia will for the first time be able to vote early if they so choose, without having to give a reason they will be unable to vote on Election Day.

Currently, those who will be unable to vote on Election Day because they will be out of town for some reason, they have health issues or they have onerous working hours that day have to give details on the reason they cannot vote when they apply for an absentee ballot.

Email newsletter signup

If you’re going to be in town and have no issue with getting to the polling place, tough luck — you have to show up on Election Day and wait in line, since you didn’t have a good enough excuse.

But the legislation that is now sitting on the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam — who urged lawmakers to pass the bill — would allow early voting without an excuse for a weeklong period ending the Saturday before the election. Voters would have to show up in person to do so but would have the chance to perform their civic duty early for no reason.

The state will continue to offer absentee voting in its current form, which can be done in person or by mail beginning 45 days before the election. Those voting by mail, or in person prior to the weeklong period immediately before Election Day, will still have to provide an excuse.

Most states allow no-excuse early voting in some form, so it’s only right that Virginia joins them. This legislation is likely to decrease lines at the polling places on Election Day, increase voter turnout overall and perhaps spur a little more participation from marginalized groups to participate in the democratic process that is their right.

Anything that increases the opportunity for qualified voters to vote is a win for the commonwealth.