Absentee voting; persons eligible to vote by absentee ballot. (SB702)

Introduced By

Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston) with support from co-patrons Del. Bob Brink (D-Arlington), Del. Rob Krupicka (D-Alexandria), Del. Jim Scott (D-Merrifield), and Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Elections; absentee voting. Provides that qualified voters may vote absentee in person without providing an excuse or reason for not being able to vote in person on election day. The bill retains the present statutory list of specific reasons entitling a voter to cast an absentee ballot for those persons who vote absentee by mail.

Read the Bill »


Bill Has Failed


11/01/2012Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/09/13 13100803D
11/01/2012Referred to Committee on Privileges and Elections
01/15/2013Impact statement from DPB (SB702)
01/15/2013Failed to report (defeated) in Privileges and Elections (7-Y 8-N) (see vote tally)


Carolyn Caywood writes:

The election just past demonstrated that this bill needs to become law before next November. Spreading out the voting workload should make elections more efficient and possibly less costly. The voters who waited hours on November 6 belonged to every political persuasion - there should be no partisan effect to passing this bill.

Frank Leone writes:

In-person early voting will make it much easier for people to vote and avoid the up to 6 hour long lines we had on election day. It would not be a major expense, does not raise any "fraud" concerns, and should be adopted, now.

Nathan Auldridge writes:

With a busy and increasingly elderly electorate, it is important to extend the opportunity to vote early for more Americans to ensure the integrity of our elections.

John Sabean writes:

The Governor's support for fixing the access for VA voters is encouraging.

Melanie Bailey writes:

I'm encouraged to see legislative initiatives to reduce the undue burdens that have been placed on many voters in the state.

Michael Barraclough writes:

We should be making it as easy as possible for every legitimate voter to vote.

claudia kuttan writes:

It is "the right thing to do," if you believe that citizens matter, and if you respect democracy and respect our Constitution and respect America.

Abdi Elias writes:

Early vote is important for our state to encourage the people to practice vote.

Theresa Anderson writes:

This is a very important measure that has bipartisan support. Passing a reasonable bill such as this one is the first step to mending the partisan fracture that has divided our political system and has paralyzed public policy.

Lisa Ann Greene writes:

This legislation will help the citizens of Virginia. Voting is a right and privilege which many people fail to exercise because it can be time-consuming. This bill will help many people with busy schedules find the time to vote!

Tiffany Lee writes:

Early voting ensures everyone has an opportunity to vote in a timely manner. No matter what your party affiliation is, people shouldn't have to wait several hours to cast a vote. It's time to do right by the residents of VA.

Benedetta Kissel writes:

I would like to voice my support for this Bill. My husband and I both worked at polling sites in VA on November 6th, and both of our precincts experienced significant waiting periods, frustrating and inconveniencing voters. This could be avoided in the future if the bill introduced by Senator Howell is adopted.

Holding elections on a weekday is an historical anomaly that can discourage working voters from participating in elections. Long lines at polling places can disenfranchise voters who cannot wait in line several hours because of physical or time constraints. Many voters who did not technically meet the current requirements expressed to me their frustration (before, during, and after the election) that, unlike their neighbors in MD and DC, VA does not have the option to vote early.

Our state should be working to encourage voting and to assure that every eligible voter has the opportunity to cast his/her vote. Please act quickly to enact the Bill. Thank you.

Lois Schroff writes:

Long lines and many ISs appear to be "suppression" of voting rights. Correct this problem NOW before another election rolls around.

Mark Potts writes:

This action is long overdue. Voting should be made as easy and accessible as possible for elegible voters, and this is an excellent start.

Jerry Schneider writes:

With the 2012 elections now behind us, there are several images burned into my memory. One was the many State attempts to limit voting with discriminating voter-id laws. Another was early no-excuse voting or lack thereof.

As a Polling Place volunteer this year, I was responsible for marking the end of the line when the polling hours ended at 7 p.m. Because my line was about two hours long at 7 p.m., I had to continually assure people that they would get to vote even though others (non-officials) were telling them that the polls had already closed. In several occasions, I escorted people with disabilities or otherwise physically infirm to the front of the line so as to minimize the time they had to stand. The people in the line were great and were very supportive of my frequent line breaks. On other occasions, I would bring out chairs to assist those who had difficulty standing. I encouraged the people in line to play trivia games amongst themselves to help pass the time. We also had several groups who began sing-a-longs and the like. For those people who were not sure whether their names were on the precinct voter rolls, I ran their id's to the registrar to confirm their status.

There was not a single person in those lines who wanted to wait two hours but, more importantly than the long wait, they wanted to vote ... and vote they did !

From my personal observations and discussions with friends who live in "early-voting" States, the lines, if any, were far shorter than they were in Virginia. My 94-year old mother lives in Maryland and insisted on voting on Election Day despite our encouragement the she vote early. Even though she voted in Bethesda, one of the more populous cities in her area, she only had a ten-minute wait.

Although Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli has stated his opposition to early voting, Governor Bob McDonell indicated that it’s worth taking a look at. This, then, is the opportune time for Virginia's legislators take the initiative and allow no-excuse early voting.

Support SB702.

Shelby writes:

I helped with the elections this year and I saw lots of people have to leave before they got to vote due to having to stand in the bad weather for long periods. Some had to leave to get back to work and most were older people that could not tolerate standing in line for this long period. Something needs to be done so that everyone has a chance to voice their choices in government. If it works for other states why shouldn't it work for Virginia??

Tim Lank writes:

Please support this bill!!! LONG OVERDUE

Jackie Stathos writes:

Yes I support this bill

Bonita Gilchrist writes:

I support this bill totally. I have lived in several other states and you did not have to give an excuse for absentee voting. Keep up the goo work.

Nina Gregory writes:

As Americans, the right to vote is the most basic of our civil rights. Because we have to provide an excuse, we are making it more difficult to vote and those who might vote but worry that they won't fit into one of the categories. We should remove this barrier and remove it post haste!!

Pam David writes:

I look forward to VA making it easier for everyone to exercise the right to vote -- no matter the political affiliation.

Carolyn Eastman writes:

A majority of the states in the U.S. have early voting to make it easier for citizens with busy work schedules to exercise their right to vote. Especially now that Virginia's population is growing so rapidly, early voting has become a necessity -- as we saw this month, when some waited hours in line due to high turnout and/or faulty technology.

Please support this bill. As a university professor, I talked to nearly a dozen students whose Tuesdays are crammed with classes, exams, and work schedules try to fit in a trip to the ballot while risking missing class or arriving late to their jobs. We don't live in a world anymore in which all citizens have a couple of hours to dedicate to standing in line on a weekday. Let's ensure that Virginia doesn't become another Florida.

Lynda West writes:

No state should be known for voter suppression. If we are serious about voting being a right and privilege in our democracy, then early voting should be available to all citizens.

Carolyn Caywood writes:

See also HB1353.

Chuck Kinney writes:

Wife is a PRN nurse who is on-call for 12 hour shifts. She may not know when she will work soon enough to request an absentee ballot. Early voting would allow her to vote at about the time of everyvody else.

Patricia Ann Liske writes:

This is most necessary! The present legislation is confusing, and seems unnecessary. I was working outside the polls for early voting, and it was sad to see eager voters some to the polling place only to be turned away because they either did not qualify or did not understand all the optional valid reasons for requesting an absentee ballot. The confusion was compounded by early voting regulations in nearby Maryland which allowed early voting without requiring a reason.

John S Freitag writes:

This would be an important step forward. Virginia is behind in this regard and this will make it possible for more people to participate in elections. It will also reduce congestion at the polls.

Please pass this measure before the next time we vote.

Tom Corbin writes:

Virginia should join the twenty-first century by providing early voting - early voting, not the current "absentee voting" which requires a reason. Voting is the heart of a democracy, and the legislature needs to make voting timely and accessible to all qualified and registered voters. A voter should not have to wait in line to vote, but rather should have the opportunity to vote during a reasonable, standard state-wide window of time before election day.

M Michelle Hutchinson writes:

The Mother of Presidents really needs to move into the modern era and make better use of data communications, computer-based communications and a better system of guaranteeing the franchise to all citizens who are eligible. Being old or poor or undereducated does not disqualify one from voting. The state should certainly not be placing obstacles in the way of voters, but rather should be facilitating voting in all elections. We do not serve the state - the state serves us, and Virginia, sadly, doesn't do a very good job of it sometimes. This bill is definitely a step in the right directions for our state, and I support it strongly.

Amy Mortimer writes:

This is a step in the right direction. We should be doing everything we can to make it easier for people to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Rachel Denham writes:

Early voting helps everyone. Work schedules are not as simple as they used to be, and getting to the polls on a certain day poses difficulties for many. Early voting allows flexibility, so I am in favor of the bill to allow it.

Susan Clark writes:

People worry about voter fraud as voting in expanded, but there is little or no evidence of that problem. The current system, however, encourages deceitfulness as people make up reasons to vote early. We should not need excuses to vote, we should be allowed and encouraged to vote. Pass this bill.

Debra Z. Roth writes:

I fully support this bill. Voting can be difficult and it is intimidating to need to provide an excuse to vote absentee when you are not sure you qualify yet you know you could be presented with obstacles on Election Day. Obstacles others and I have faced include bad weather, transportation delays, crises at work, sick parent out of state requiring sudden trip, sudden business need out of state requiring last-minute trip, etc.

Let's get moving into the 21st Century!

Judy Poff writes:

I fully support the bill for early voting.

Twila V. Jackson writes:

I hope that this bill will pass so that voting can becoming easier for the citizens of the great state of VA.

Barbara Smith writes:

I support this bill wholeheartedly. I watched a woman collapse at a polling location in Roanoke while she waited in a long line to vote. An ambulance had to come and take her to the emergency room. Surely, Virginia can do better than force people into these situations.

hele Kyle writes:

much over due. Voting should be easy and accessible to all. We should not have to wait in log lines and this should help in that regard.

Melissa Anderson writes:

People have fought and died for the right to vote. Why is such an important, civic process being made so hard to do? I feel like a hidden agenda is behind all of this!

Joyce & Gilbert RossRoss writes:

We strongly support any measure which makes voting easier. Citizen participation is what secures a democracy. There is no excuse for the long lines on election day which discourage would-be voters. Every person MUST be able to vote without duress.

Stephen Spitz writes:

I fully support this bill. Virginia needs to. move into the 21st Century already!

Terry Adams writes:

I strongly support this bill so that we do not become Florida. If we want people to stay productive and participant we should make sure everyone has an opportunity to cast their legal ballot.

Vicki Weiss writes:

When I heard of the long lines of people waiting after 7pm on November 6th in Roanoke, I felt that our democracy was under attack. Virginia is better than this. Our troops fight and die for our right to vote and I am sorry, making it too hard to do is not acceptable.

Romajean W. Forrest writes:

The right to vote was a bitter and hard fought battle for too many brave citizens. It is ridiculous to think that efforts continue to prevent and/or to make it difficult for citizens to vote. I employ every responsible and conscience-driven legislator to do everything possible to support the passage of this bill. Please set aside partisan politics and do the right thing. This bill would benefit all regardless of party affiliations.

Beth Kelley writes:

The state senator for my district has sponsored this type of legislation in the past and plans to do so again in 2013. He told me in a letter that the legislation passes in the Senate but that the problem lies in the House of Delegates. The citizens of Virginia need to contact their local state Delegates and Senators and demand that they approve early voting legislation. We should NOT have to give a reason for voting early, nor should we have to wait hours in long lines to prove who we are in order to vote. People fought and died to give us the right to vote; our state legislators shouldn't be trying to prevent anyone from exercising this right. Pass this legislation!

Stephen Spitz writes:

On further reflection, I believe this legislation should go further and apply to both in person and mail in absentee voting. Better yet, why not have early voting instead of absentee!

Norma Jean Young writes:

I strongly support this piece of legislation. The question asked on the early voting form invades personal privacy.

walter moore writes:

i sttrongly support this piece of legislation. the only thing is, it does not go far enough to encourage real voter participation.

minna moore writes:

we do not need a repeat of the long lines last year. approve this bill and expand voting opportunities for all Virginians.

Rekha Nadkarni writes:

This bill will increase voter participation and lead to greater representation. Thanks Senator Howell for championing democracy.

Josephine Sprague writes:

I was able to vote absentee, no reason required, for many years in California. You shouldn't need to have a reason to vote absentee and it should be easy and convenient to do.

Lillian (Ellyn) Pence writes:

In Oregon and Colorado, everyone votes by mail. It is so easy. And to my knowledge, there have been no voter fraud scandals like the ones across the nation that involve voting at overcrowded polling places on expensive machines that sometimes malfunction.

ACLU-VA Voting Rights, tracking this bill in Photosynthesis, notes:

The ACLU of Virginia strongly supports legislation that expands the opportunity to vote by absentee ballot without having to provide a reason, however this bill only applies to in-person absentee ballot voters. There are too many Virginia voters who do not have access to in-person absentee voting sites because of lack of transportation or work schedules that conflict with in-person absentee voting hours. No-excuse absentee voting should be available to all qualified voters through the mail and by in-person methods.