By ALAN SUDERMAN Associated Press
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia lawmakers on Monday advanced proposals aimed at making absentee voting easier amid the coronavirus pandemic, including having the state prepay postage, setting up drop boxes and establishing a process for voters to fix paperwork issues on improperly submitted ballots.
Democratic-led committees in the state House and Senate approved the measures over objections from Republicans who said they were concerned about the cost and ballot security.
States around the country are expecting a big jump in voting by mail this fall amid the coronavirus threat and many are taking steps to make it easier. President Donald Trump has railed almost daily about the Postal Service, which he considers wasteful, and has threatened to oppose extra money to help it handle record levels of mail-in ballots this fall.
In Virginia, Republican senators said the proposals are being rushed through a special session without adequate safeguards being put in place. GOP Sen. Steve Newman said the measure as written would allow someone like a “community organizer” to collect absentee ballots from several people before dropping them off, which he said was a marked departure from current practice and opens the door to wrongdoing.
“I can’t imagine anything that is more inviting of fraud,” Newman said.
In the House, Republicans questioned whether the $2 million price tag for prepaid postage on absentee ballots couldn’t be better spent on other priorities.
Democrats countered the coronavirus pandemic calls for unprecedented action to ensure that voting is as easy as possible for every eligible Virginian. Democrats also said voters need to be reassured that they can bypass the embattled U.S. Postal Service to ensure their ballots arrive on time.
“The Post Office is not trusted at this point,” Howell said.
With Election Day only 71 days away, Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, has urged lawmakers to work quickly to approve additional money for absentee voting.
The measures now head to the House and Senate floor for a full vote in coming days.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia residents still have time to vote in the Nov. 3 election without going to the...