Northam Announces Legislative Proposals to Protect Voting Rights and Reform Campaign Finance Laws

By Brandon Jarvis

Ahead of the General Assembly session that convenes on Wednesday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam presented legislative proposals that he is pushing with assistance from legislators. The main chunk of his agenda include protecting voter rights and campaign finance reforms for the state of Virginia. In all, the package includes proposals to implement no-excuse absentee voting; repeal the requirement to show a photo ID to vote; limit large campaign contributions; ban direct contributions from corporations or businesses; and prohibit the personal use of campaign funds.

“Participation makes our democracy strong—we should encourage every eligible voter to exercise this fundamental right, rather than creating unnecessary barriers that make getting to the ballot box difficult,” said Governor Northam. “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.”

Senator Mamie Locke and Delegate Charniele Herring are patroning bills that will help reduce lines on Election Day and expand access for more Virginians to exercise their right to vote. It would permits any registered voter to vote by absentee ballot in any election in which they are qualified to vote. This bill removes the current list of statutory reasons under which a person may be entitled to vote by absentee ballot.

Legislation repealing the law requiring individuals to present a photo ID in order to vote is another bill that is being pushed by Sen. Locke, along with Del. Kaye Kory.

“Voting is the constitutional right of every American citizen. Lawmakers should be working to increase access to the voting booth, not inventing ways to keep voters away from the polls,” said Delegate Kaye Kory. “The photo ID requirement prevents the most vulnerable Virginians from voting and silences the voices of those who most need to be heard.”

Legislation to limit large individual campaign contributions will be patroned by Senator Chap Petersen. This bill caps campaign contributions at $10,000 per candidate over the course of a given primary and general election cycle. Thirty-nine other states and the federal government have set limits on how much a single person can contribute to a campaign. In Virginia, no limit currently exists.

“There’s too much big money in politics,” said Senator Chap Petersen. “We need some reasonable limits on what people can contribute in order to keep the process honest.”  

The proposal to ban direct corporate and business contributions to campaigns will be patroned by Delegate Elizabeth Guzman. To ensure enforcement, the bill also bans corporations and businesses from making direct contributions to their own political action committees. Contributions from individuals would be unaffected by this legislation.

“Our Commonwealth has an opportunity to reform campaign finance laws by banning direct corporate and business donations,” said Delegate Elizabeth Guzman. “Virginians want legislators who represent their interests, and this reform will foster more trust in the legislative process.”

Legislation to ban the personal use of campaign funds will be patroned by Delegate Marcus Simon. This bill prohibits candidates from using campaign money for personal expenses, which is currently allowed under Virginia law.