Proposed Rules Would Harm Democracy in Virginia, Say Voting Rights Advocates
February 28, 2013
RICHMOND, VA - Yesterday, Project Vote and the League of Women Voters of Virginia called on Governor Bob McDonnell to veto SB 1008, a piece of legislation that could have a disastrous impact on community voter registration drives in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“Community groups set up tables at county fairs, grocery stores, and schools in order to connect with people where they live and help them to register to vote. This law will restrict their ability to reach Americans and engage them in democracy,” says Estelle Rogers, legislative director at Project Vote. “The last two years have seen a tidal wave of laws aimed at restricting voting, and SB 1008 is the latest in that trend. We ask Governor Bob McDonnell to support democracy in Virginia and veto this law.”
Community voter registration drives play a vital role in our democracy and are especially effective at engaging underrepresented populations. According to the Census, minorities and low-income citizens, in particular, rely on community voter registration drives to register to vote. Any legislation that harms voter registration drives will have a negative impact on these populations.
“This bill would make it significantly more difficult for community organizations, like the League of Women Voters, to conduct voter registration drives in the Commonwealth," said Lynn Gordon, President of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. "The bill puts dangerous and unnecessary burdens on voter registration drives, and then compounds the problem by leaving too many specifics up to the discretion of the State Board of Elections.”
SB 1008 requires any individual or group that obtains 25 or more voter registration applications to file paperwork with the State Board, but does not specify the content required to fulfill this obligation.
The bill requires any such individual or group to receive formal training approved by the State Board, but sets no parameters as to where, when, and how such training must be offered. This requirement could effectively shut down drives if training is not made easily and frequently accessible
Finally, the bill reduces submission deadlines for applications from 15 days to 10 days after completion, providing large drives insufficient time to conduct the vital quality control procedures that actually prevent the submission of fraudulent, incomplete, or erroneous applications.
In the letter to Gov. McDonnell (available here), Project Vote and the League of Women Voters of Virginia urge him to veto this vague and harmful bill. The groups request that if the governor refuses to veto it, the language of the bill be changed to reflect the marginally more reasonable requirements that were already passed as amendments to SB 1008’s companion bill, HB 1747.
“We hope Gov. McDonnell will recognize that wise public policy should make voting free, fair, and accessible, not more difficult. The goal is for all eligible citizens to participate in Virginia elections,” said Rogers.