HB1672: Absentee voting; deletes requirement that a witness sign envelope containing voted absentee ballot.

HOUSE BILL NO. 1672
Offered January 14, 2009
Prefiled December 22, 2008
A BILL to amend and reenact 24.2-702.1, 24.2-704, 24.2-706, and 24.2-707 of the Code of Virginia, relating to elections; absentee voting procedures; witness requirements.
Patron-- Dance

Committee Referral Pending

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. That 24.2-702.1, 24.2-704, 24.2-706, and 24.2-707 of the Code of Virginia are amended and reenacted as follows:

24.2-702.1. Federal write-in absentee ballots.

A. Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, a qualified absentee voter who is eligible for an absentee ballot under subdivision 2 of 24.2-700 may use a federal write-in absentee ballot in general, special, and primary elections for federal office. Such ballot shall be submitted and processed in the manner provided by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (42 U.S.C. 1973ff et seq.) and this article.

B. Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, a federal write-in absentee ballot submitted pursuant to subsection A shall be considered valid for purposes of simultaneously satisfying both an absentee ballot application and a completed absentee ballot for federal offices only, provided that the ballot is received not less than five days prior to the election in which the voter offers to vote, and the application on the envelope contains the following information: (i) the voter's signature; however, if the voter is unable to sign, the person assisting the voter will note this fact in the voter signature box; (ii) the voter's printed name; (iii) the county or city in which he is registered and offers to vote; (iv) the residence address at which he is registered to vote; and (v) his current military or overseas address. The envelope must be witnessed, and the witness shall provide his signature, printed name and address in the witness signature box.

24.2-704. Applications and ballots for persons requiring assistance in voting; penalty.

The application for an absentee ballot shall provide space for the applicant to indicate that he will require assistance to vote his absentee ballot by reason of blindness, disability, or inability to read or write. On receipt of an application from an applicant marked to indicate he will require assistance, the electoral board shall deliver, with the items required by 24.2-706, the voter assistance form furnished by the State Board pursuant to 24.2-649. The voter and any person assisting him shall complete the form by signing the request for assistance and statement required of the assistant. If the voter is unable to sign the request, the witness person assisting the voter will note this fact on the line for signature of voter. The provisions of 24.2-649 shall apply to absentee voting and assistance for absentee voters. Any person who willfully violates the provisions of this section or 24.2-649 in providing assistance to a person who is voting absentee shall be guilty of a Class 5 felony.

24.2-706. Duty of general registrar and electoral board on receipt of application; statement of voter.

On receipt of an application for an absentee ballot, the general registrar shall enroll the name and address of each registered applicant on an absentee voter applicant list that shall be maintained in the office of the general registrar with a file of the applications of the listed applicants. The list and the applications shall be available for inspection and copying by any registered voter during regular office hours.

No list or application containing an individual's social security number, or any part thereof, or the individual's day and month of birth, shall be made available for inspection or copying by anyone. The State Board of Elections shall prescribe procedures for local electoral boards and general registrars to make the information in the lists and applications available in a manner that does not reveal social security numbers or parts thereof, or an individual's day and month of birth.

The completion and timely delivery of an application for an absentee ballot shall be construed to be an offer by the applicant to vote in the election.

The general registrar shall note on each application received whether the applicant is or is not a registered voter and notify the secretary of the electoral board. In reviewing the application for an absentee ballot, the general registrar and electoral board shall not reject the application of any individual because of an error or omission on any record or paper relating to the application, if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified to vote absentee.

If the application has been properly completed and signed and the applicant is a registered voter of the precinct in which he offers to vote, the electoral board shall immediately send to the applicant by mail, obtaining a certificate of mailing, or deliver to him in person in the office of the secretary or registrar, the following items and nothing else:

1. An envelope containing the folded ballot, sealed and marked "Ballot within. Do not open except in presence of a witness."

2. An envelope, with printing only on the flap side, for resealing the marked ballot, on which envelope is printed the following:


"StatementofVoter."
"Idoherebystate,subjecttofelonypenaltiesformakingfalsestatements
pursuantto24.2-1016,thatmyFULLNAMEis..............(last,first,
middle);thatIamnoworhavebeenatsometimesincelastNovember'sgeneral
electionalegalresidentof...............(STATEYOURLEGALRESIDENCEIN
VIRGINIAincludingthehousenumber,streetnameorruralrouteaddress,city,
zipcode);thatIreceivedtheenclosedballot(s)uponapplicationtothe
registrarofsuchcountyorcity;thatIopenedtheenvelopemarked'ballot
within'andmarkedtheballot(s)inthepresenceofthewitness,without
assistanceorknowledgeonthepartofanyoneastothemannerinwhichI
markedit(orIamreturningtheformrequiredtoreporthowIwasassisted);
thatIthensealedtheballot(s)inthisenvelope;andthatIhavenotvoted
andwillnotvoteinthiselectionatanyothertimeorplace.
SignatureofVoter....................
Date....................
Signatureofwitness..................."

For elections held after January 1, 2004, instead of the envelope containing the above oath, an envelope containing the standard oath prescribed by the presidential designee under section 101 (b) (7) of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (42 U.S.C. 1973ff et seq.) shall be sent to voters who are qualified to vote absentee under that Act.

3. A properly addressed envelope for the return of the ballot to the electoral board by mail or by the applicant in person.

4. Printed instructions for completing the ballot and statement on the envelope and returning the ballot.

For federal elections held after January 1, 2004, for any voter who is required by subparagraph (b) of 42 U.S.C.S. 15483 of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to show identification the first time the voter votes in a federal election in the state, the printed instructions shall direct the voter to submit with his ballot: (i) a copy of a current and valid photo identification; or (ii) a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other document that shows the name and address of the voter. Such individual who desires to vote by mail but who does not submit one of the forms of identification specified in this paragraph may cast such ballot by mail and the ballot shall be counted as a provisional ballot under the provisions of 24.2-653. The State Board of Elections shall provide instructions to the electoral boards for the handling and counting of such provisional ballots pursuant to subsection B of 24.2-653 and this section.

5. For any voter entitled to vote absentee under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (42 U.S.C. 1973ff et seq.), information provided by the State Board specific to the voting rights and responsibilities for such citizens, or information provided by the registrar specific to the status of the voter registration and absentee ballot application of such voter, may be included.

The envelopes and instructions shall be in the form prescribed by the State Board.

If the applicant makes his application to vote in person under 24.2-701 at a time when the printed ballots for the election are available, the general registrar or the secretary of the electoral board, on the determination of the qualifications of the applicant to vote, shall provide to the applicant the items set forth in subdivisions 1 through 4, and no item shall be removed by the applicant from the office of the general registrar or the secretary of the electoral board. On the request of the applicant, made no later than 5:00 p.m. on the seventh day prior to the election in which the applicant offers to vote, the general registrar or the secretary may send the items set forth in subdivisions 1 through 4 to the applicant by mail, obtaining a certificate of mailing.

If the applicant states as the reason for his absence on election day any of the reasons set forth in subdivision 2 of 24.2-700, the electoral board shall mail or deliver in person to the applicant in the office of the secretary or general registrar, the items as set forth in subdivisions 1 through 4 and, if necessary, an application for registration. A certificate of mailing shall not be required. The electoral board shall send the blank ballot, the form for the envelope for returning the marked ballot, and instructions to the voter by electronic transmission if the voter so requests and if the applicant voter is residing or is stationed outside the continental borders of the United States. The voted ballot shall be returned to the electoral board as otherwise required by this chapter.

When the statement prescribed in subdivision 2 has been properly completed and signed by the registered voter and witnessed, his ballot shall not be subject to challenge pursuant to 24.2-651.

24.2-707. How ballots marked and returned by mail; cast in person; cast on voting equipment.

On receipt of a mailed absentee ballot, the voter shall, in the presence of a witness, (i) open the sealed envelope marked "ballot within" and (ii) mark and refold the ballot, as provided in 24.2-644 and 24.2-646 without assistance and without making known how he marked the ballot, except as provided by 24.2-704.

After the voter has marked his absentee ballot, he shall (a) enclose the ballot in the envelope provided for that purpose, (b) seal the envelope, (c) fill in and sign the statement printed on the back of the envelope in the presence of a witness, who shall sign the same envelope, (d) enclose the ballot envelope and any required assistance form within the envelope directed to the electoral board, and (e) seal that envelope and mail it to the office of the electoral board or deliver it personally to the electoral board or the general registrar. For purposes of this chapter, "mail" shall include delivery by a commercial delivery service, but shall not include delivery by a personal courier service or another individual except as provided by 24.2-703.2 and 24.2-705.

An applicant who makes his application to vote in person at a time when the printed ballots for the election are available shall follow the same procedure set forth above except that he may complete the procedure in person in the office of the general registrar or secretary of the electoral board, or at another location or locations in the county or city approved by the electoral board, before a registrar or a member of the electoral board, or, if a ballot is cast at that time, before the officers of election appointed by the electoral board. Any such location shall be in a public building owned or leased by the city, the county, or a town within the county, with adequate facilities for the protection of all records concerning the absentee voters, the absentee ballots, both voted and unvoted, and any voting equipment in use at the location. Such location may be in a facility owned or leased by the Commonwealth and used as a location for Department of Motor Vehicles facilities and for an office of the general registrar. Such location shall be deemed the equivalent of the office of the general registrar or secretary of the electoral board for the purpose of completing the application for an absentee ballot in person pursuant to 24.2-701 and 24.2-706. On the request of the applicant, made no later than 5:00 p.m. on the seventh day prior to the election in which the applicant offers to vote, the general registrar or the secretary may send the items set forth in subdivisions 1 through 4 of 24.2-706 to the applicant by mail, obtaining a certificate of mailing.

Failure to follow the procedures set forth above shall render the applicant's ballot void.

The electoral board of any county or city using a central absentee voting precinct may provide for the casting of absentee ballots on voting equipment prior to election day by applicants who are voting in person. The State Board shall prescribe procedures for the use of voting equipment. The procedures shall provide for the casting of absentee ballots prior to election day by in-person applicants on voting equipment which has been certified, and is currently approved, by the State Board. The procedures shall be applicable and uniformly applied by the State Board to all jurisdictions using comparable voting equipment. At least two officers of election, one representing each political party, shall be present during all hours that absentee voting is available at any location at which absentee ballots are cast prior to election day.

The requirement that officers of election shall be present if ballots are cast on voting equipment prior to election day shall not be applicable when the voting equipment is located in the office of the general registrar or secretary of the electoral board and the general registrar, an assistant registrar, or the secretary of the electoral board is present.