No-excuse absentee in-person voting moving forward

February 12, 2019

HB 2790 (Rush) allows voters to cast absentee ballots in person during the week before an election (from the second Saturday before the election through 5 p.m. on the Saturday immediately preceding the election) without requiring that they meet one of the existing statutory excuses for voting absentee.  Absentee in-person voting for voters meeting one of the excuses would be allowed beginning on the 45th day before the election and running through the second Friday before the election.  Absentee in-person voting would be conducted in the office of the general registrar or secretary of the electoral board, with additional satellite locations available at local option.

SB 1026 (Spruill) contains similar provisions; as passed by the Senate, the bill contains a delayed enactment clause and a requirement for the State Board of Elections to report to the Governor and the Chairs of the House and Senate Privileges and Elections Committees on implementation plans as well as recommendations for additional legislation that may be necessary.  It is expected that a similar delayed enactment clause will be added to HB 2790 in the Senate.

Legislation to expand absentee voting has been attempted many times over the past decade and beyond, but generally has not been viewed favorably by the House.  HB 2790 and SB 1026 scale back other proposals under consideration in recent years, which would have provided for additional weeks of no-excuse absentee in-person voting.  VACo has been in discussions with general registrars about potential resource implications of the measures and will be part of discussions with interested parties after the conclusion of the session.  VACo worked with House and Senate patrons to introduce budget amendments this session that sought to convene a workgroup on the costs of election administration overall and ways for the state to provide greater support for this increasingly complex area of government; the amendments were unsuccessful, but the work to implement the early-voting legislation provides another opportunity to advocate for additional state resources to localities to carry out the important, shared responsibility of election administration.

VACo Contact:  Katie Boyle

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