RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The beginning of the 2019 General Assembly Session is just two days away, and Governor Northam announced bills Monday he hopes to pass to protect voting rights and reform campaign finance laws.
The Democratic Governor said he wants to break down what he calls barriers to voting, starting with the controversial requirement that voters show photo identification.
“While photo ID laws are intended to reduce voter fraud, very little such voter fraud actually exists. Instead of fixing a problem, the photo ID law just makes it harder for people, especially minority voters or low-income voters to lawfully vote,” said Northam.
He also wants to pass no-excuse absentee voting so that voters wouldn’t have to meet one of twenty listed excuses, but could simply choose to vote early.
"Voting in the days before the election is just as American as voting on Election Day. Allowing no excuse absentee voting will also reduce lines and wait times at the polls on election day,” said Northam.
In a press release, Northam said the proposals were targeted at increasing the integrity of Virginia’s elections.
“Participation makes our democracy strong,” Northam said in the release. “We should encourage every eligible voter to exercise this fundamental right, rather than creating unnecessary barriers that make getting to the ballot box difficult. I am also hopeful we will be successful working together this session to increase the transparency of our elections for Virginians by imposing reasonable limitations on campaign contributions.”
The release said increasing absentee voting would help reduce lines on Election Day.
The plan to repeal the voter ID law is sponsored by Del. Kaye Kory, who was quoted in the press release saying, “Lawmakers should be working to increase access to the voting booth, not inventing ways to keep voters away from the polls.”
Governor Northam also aims to reform campaign contributions, starting with limiting them to $10,000 per candidate, per election - banning contributions from corporations and businesses to candidates, and banning candidates from using them for personal expenses.
“Right now a candidate for state office can cash a campaign check, then spend that money on their personal expenses,” said Northam. “Passing this reform in Virginia will instill more trust and confidence in our politics.”
Many of these measures have been proposed and failed before, Northam believes this year they could pass.
“I think the people make the difference. I have listened to people across the commonwealth,” said Northam.
House Democrats also unveiled a series of gun safety proposals. Republicans have opposed many of these bills in the past.