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Privileges and Elections Committees Begin to Consider Elections Bills

The House and Senate Privileges and Elections Committees began considering elections legislation this week.  In the Senate, several bills that would have reversed or limited certain policy decisions enacted in recent years to expand voting access were defeated, including SB 42 (Peake), which would have reduced the absentee voting in person period from 45 to 21 days preceding an election; SB 81 (McGuire), which would have required voters to present photo identification; and SB 92 (Peake), which would have eliminated same-day voter registration on Election Day at polling places and instead required same-day registration to take place at the general registrar’s office up to the day of election.

SB 165 (Reeves), which clarifies the date on which candidates may begin circulating petitions of qualified voters to have their names printed on the ballot, was reported from the Committee, as was SB 109 (Suetterlein), after extensive discussion.  This bill provides that when a candidate in a primary files his or her declaration of candidacy, that declaration must include a statement that if the candidate’s name appears on the primary ballot and he or she is not nominated, his or her name is not to be printed on the ballots for the general election.  The bill addresses a situation in which a candidate might withdraw from the primary during the early voting period but before the date of the primary itself.

The Committee “carried over,” or continued to 2025, several Constitutional amendments that were proposed for the first time this year.  Since Constitutional amendments must pass once prior to a General Assembly election and once after the election before being placed before the voters, Constitutional amendments are traditionally heard for the first time in odd-numbered years.  There is one proposed amendment that is being considered for the second time this year, HJ 45 (Tran)/SJ 3 (McPike), which would expand the existing real property tax exemption for the surviving spouses of servicemembers killed in action to cover surviving spouses of servicemembers who die in the line of duty, with a Line of Duty determination from the Department of Defense.

The House Privileges and Elections Committee’s Subcommittee on Campaign Finance met January 17 and recommended reporting HB 40 (Simon), which would bar the use of campaign funds for personal use, a concept that has been considered several times in past legislative sessions.  Also recommended for reporting was HB 126 (Watts), which provides that a person who fails to file at least one of the campaign finance reports required by law to be filed in an election year by July 20 is not entitled to have his or her name printed on the ballot at the general election.  The full House Privileges and Elections Committee is scheduled to meet Friday morning.

VACo Contact:  Katie Boyle

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