Republicans Kill Election-law Bills Proposed by Democrats

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RICHMOND – Bills that would ban political contributions from utilities like Dominion Energy, start a pilot program for voting by mail and extend polling hours were killed on party-lines votes in a House subcommittee Thursday.

The Privileges and Elections subcommittee met at 7:30 a.m. to vote on 15 bills that could have affected the way future elections are run.

Republican Dels. Steven Landes of Augusta; Israel O’Quinn of Washington; Gregory Habeeb of Salem; and Mark Cole of Spotsylvania outvoted Democratic Dels. Joseph Lindsey of Norfolk and Cheryl Turpin of Virginia Beach to kill 12 of the bills.

Among the legislation defeated on a 4-2 vote was HB 562 by Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, which sought to prohibit candidates from soliciting or accepting a contribution from any public service corporation or its political action committee. Roem said that would have brought a “fresh start” in Virginia. Critics have complained about the role of Dominion, the largest corporate donor in Virginia politics.

Del. Debra Rodman, D-Henrico, urged members of the subcommittee to pass HB 230, a bill seeking to start a pilot program for voting by mail. She said it would give Virginia voters a fair and equal chance to submit their ballots.

“Everyone deserves an equal opportunity to vote,” Rodman said. Currently, three states allow voting by mail: Oregon, Colorado and Washington.

The bill was “passed by indefinitely” – effectively killed – by a 4-2 vote. Opponents cited concerns over the reliability of postal delivery.

Del. Delores L. McQuinn, D-Richmond, wanted to repeal the requirement for photo identification when voting. She said it could discriminate against minorities and others who may not have access to such an ID. Cole responded that he did not consider the requirement discriminatory because a photo ID could be obtained when registering. HB 1079 also failed on a 4-2 vote.

Dels. Gwendolyn W. Gooditis, D-Clarke, and Turpin advocated extending polling by one hour, until 8 p.m., on Election Day with HB 568 and HB 265. Both bills were passed by indefinitely by a 4-2 vote.

“It’s fair for people to come home from work and vote,” Gooditis said. Several states, including California, Montana and Maryland, keep polls open until 8 p.m. Gooditis said she plans to study how that policy has worked there.

The panel killed HB 99 by Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, which would have entered Virginia into an interstate compact to elect the president by popular vote.

The panel amended and backed HB 553 by Del. Nicholas J. Freitas, R-Culpeper, which would create a ranking system for electing certain officials. The so-called “instant runoff” measure passed 5-1.

By Jessica Wetzler

Capital News Service

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