Elections

VIRGINIA VOTER REGISTRATION DEADLINE EXTENDED BY FEDERAL COURT

RICHMOND, VA – Today, a federal district judge extended the deadline for citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia to register to vote through Thursday, October 15, 2020.

This extension will provide all eligible Virginians with the opportunity to participate in the 2020 November General and Special Elections by registering to vote on or before October 15, 2020. Eligible Virginians may submit a voter registration application or update an existing voter registration record in any of the following methods:

  • In-person to the office of their local general registrar by 5pm on Thursday, October 15th
  • By mail postmarked on or before Thursday, October 15th
  • Online at elections.virginia.gov/voterinfo through 11:59pm on Thursday, October 15th
  • To an NVRA designated state agency, such as the DMV or a social services office, by October 15th

Currently registered Virginia voters and eligible Virginians that have already submitted a registration application do not need to take any additional action.

Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Chris Piper stated, “The Department welcomes today’s court decision to extend the voter registration deadline through Thursday, October 15th. This gives eligible Virginians additional time to register or update their current voter registration record. We encourage Virginians to access the Citizen’s Portal at elections.virginia.gov/voterinfo today or use one of the many other options available for registering to vote.”

In addition to registering to vote, Virginians may also check their current voter registration status, find their polling location and apply for an absentee ballot on the Department’s Citizen Portal at elections.virginia.gov/voterinfo.

STATEMENT OF SENATE INTEL VICE CHAIR SEN. MARK R. WARNER ON THE INTEGRITY OF OUR ELECTIONS

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the below statement:

“Our nation has a 200-year history of successful elections, followed by a peaceful transfer of power. Yesterday, the Senate Intelligence Committee received a briefing on election security from our nation’s top officials. We all know that the election process will look different this year, in light of COVID-19, and we may not know the results on election night. The Intelligence Community (IC) warned that, as a result, the period immediately before and after the election could be uniquely volatile. But we should continue to have faith in the state and local officials who are responsible for the conduct of our elections and the IC and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) officials who help to protect them, and make sure that all the votes are counted. 

“The President of the United States should not be aiding and abetting foreign adversaries who are working  to sow doubts about the legitimacy of the American election system.”

In February 2020, the Senate Intelligence Committee released the third volume in the Committee’s bipartisan investigation into Russian election interference, “U.S. Government Response to Russian Activities,” which was approved on a bipartisan basis by the Republican-led Committee. That report included a series of recommendations for improving the security of our elections in the future, including:

(U) Sitting officials and candidates should use the absolute greatest amount of restraint and caution if they are considering publicly calling the validity of an upcoming election into question. Such a grave allegation can have significant national security and electoral consequences, including limiting the response options of the appropriate authorities, and exacerbating the already damaging messaging efforts of foreign intelligence services. (Page 45)

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING OUTLINES PROTECTIONS AGAINST VOTER INTIMIDATION

~ Herring issues advisory opinion outlining protections in both state and federal law against voter intimidation in response to recent events ~

RICHMOND (September 24, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has issued an advisory opinion outlining protections in both state and federal law against voter intimidation in response to “reports of activity near polling places that led some voters to fear for their safety while waiting to cast their vote, or led them to believe that they would be harmed for supporting a particular candidate.”
 
“Voting is a fundamental right and the bedrock of our democracy. No Virginian should ever feel intimidated or afraid while exercising their duty as an American and casting their vote,” said Attorney General Herring. “My hope is that the behavior we saw last week will not happen again, and I remain committed to ensuring that every Virginian is able to safely and comfortably cast their ballot without fearing for their safety or wellbeing.”
 
Attorney General Herring concludes his opinion saying, “[t]he legitimacy of our government—and its success in fulfilling the promises of our Constitution—rely on the notion of uncoerced choice. Virginia and federal law protect the fundamental right to vote freely. Accordingly, it is my opinion that the conduct you describe could violate state and/or federal law if it threatens or intimidates voters casting their ballots at polling places.”
 
The opinion outlines applicable provisions in the Code of Virginia “[that] expressly prohibit[] voter intimidation” including:
  • Section 24.2-607(A) makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor “’for any person to hinder, intimidate, or interfere with any qualified voter so as to prevent the voter from casting a secret ballot.’”
  • Section 24.2-1005 makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to use “’threats, bribery, or other means in violation of the election laws’ to ‘attempt[] to influence any person in giving his vote or ballot or . . . deter him from voting.’”
  • Section 24.2-1015, makes it a Class 5 felony to “’conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, intimidate, prevent, or hinder any citizen of this Commonwealth in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the provisions of [the election laws].’”
 
The opinion also highlights provisions in the Virginia state code that “prohibit[] certain conduct at polling places that might interfere with the right to vote free from influence,” including:
  • Section 24.2-607(B) that says “’[n]o person shall conduct himself in a noisy or riotous manner at or about the polls so as to disturb the election.’”
  • “While polls are open, it is unlawful to ‘loiter or congregate,’ ‘give, tender, or exhibit any . . . campaign material,’ or ‘solicit or in any manner attempt to influence any person in casting his vote’ within 40 feet of ‘any entrance of any polling place.’”
  • “It is also unlawful to ‘use[]’ a ‘loudspeaker…within 300 feet of a polling place on an election day.’”
 
Additionally, the opinion notes that “Virginia and federal law provide that voters shall not be harassed for exercising their rights”, highlighting that “[b]oth state and local law protect citizens from violent threats, and in particular from being threatened with firearms” and that “[i]t is a criminal offense for private individuals to usurp the role of actual law enforcement, and it is accordingly unlawful to appear at the polls attempting to exercise roles that rightfully belong to law enforcement.” Attorney General Herring says that “[t]hese types of protection have an important history in our law. They have helped vindicate racial equality in voting, ensure the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws, and invoke the basic respect that is due every voter at the polls.”
 
Other key passages from the opinion:
 
In our democratic system of governance, the right to vote is “a fundamental political right.” Voting both ensures “a representative form of government” and also “preserv[es] . . . other basic civil and political rights.” “[T]he right to exercise the franchise in a free and unimpaired manner” is therefore a “bedrock” principle in any “free and democratic society.” Intimidation of citizens who are seeking to vote is both illegal and antithetical to one of the basic promises that binds us together: that of democratic self-governance. [Page 1]
 
Federal criminal law similarly provides that any person who “intimidates, threatens, [or] coerces” another person “for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he may choose” in a federal election—or “attempts” to do the same—may be fined and/or imprisoned for up to one year. [Page 2]
 
Should they so choose, officers of election—with the consent of the locality’s chief law-enforcement officer—are empowered to “designate a law-enforcement officer” to “preserve order inside and outside at the polling place.” [Page 2]
 
Voters similarly should not fear for their safety when voting, whether they are within the forty-foot zone of a polling place or in socially-distanced lines beyond that zone. [Page 2]
 
Virginia law also prohibits carrying or possessing firearms or weapons at specific locations that may be used as polling places, such as schools and courthouses. [Page 3]
 
Virginia law makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to “falsely assume[] or exercise[] the functions, powers, duties, and privileges incident to the office of sheriff, police officer, marshal, or other peace officer, or any local, city, county, state, or federal law-enforcement officer.” This criminal prohibition can apply to “a group of private militia members coming as a unit, heavily armed with assault-style weapons, dressed in fatigues and other military accessories, and acting in a coordinated fashion” where the “militia members patrol[] a line of citizens” and “project[] authority to manage the crowd.” [Page 3]

Governor Northam Casts Vote in November General Election on First Day of Early Voting in Virginia

 

 

Reminds voters of options to vote absentee by mail or early in person, urges all Virginians to make a voting plan

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today voted early in person at the Richmond general registrar’s office on the first day of Virginia’s 45-day early voting period.

New laws allow all Virginians to vote absentee by mail, or in person at their local registrar’s office or satellite locations. The Governor signed legislation this year removing a previous provision that required absentee voters to provide a reason for voting early, so any Virginia voter may vote early without providing a specific reason.

“Virginians can be confident their vote is secure, and will be counted,” said Governor Northam. “While the pandemic has made this an unprecedented election year, Virginia voters have several safe and easy ways to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Voting is an essential part of our democracy, and I encourage every Virginia voter to know their options and make a plan for safely casting their ballot.”

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a higher number of Virginians are expected to vote by mail in the 2020 election. As of Thursday, the Department of Elections had received 824,000 requests for absentee ballots by mail. For comparison, 566,000 votes were cast absentee in the 2016 General Election—half by mail.

Virginians have several options for safely casting their ballots for the November General Election.

Absentee by Mail
Beginning today, September 18, Virginia general registrars will mail absentee ballots to voters who request them. Virginians can request a ballot online at elections.virginia.gov. The last day to request an absentee ballot by mail is Friday, October 23 at 5:00 p.m.

All absentee ballots will include a return envelope with prepaid postage. Ballots with a postmark of November 3 or earlier will be accepted until noon on Friday, November 6.

As an additional layer of security, every absentee ballot envelope is required to have an intelligent mail barcode and an election mail insignia. The insignia tells the United States Postal Service that this piece of mail is a ballot and should be prioritized. The barcode lets voters track their ballot once it leaves the registrar’s office—so a voter will know when their ballot has been mailed to them, and when it is delivered back to the registrar. Voters can track their absentee ballot using the absentee ballot look-up tool available here.

Drop-off Locations
Absentee ballots may also be hand delivered to your local registrar’s office or returned to a secure drop-off location, which include any satellite voting location. A list of drop-off locations is available on your county or city’s official website. On Election Day, you can also drop off your completed absentee ballot at any polling place in the county or city in which you are registered to vote.

For voters who prefer to vote in person, there are two options.

Early In Person
Starting today, September 18, Virginia voters can vote absentee in person at their local registrar’s office as Governor Northam did. Voters can simply go to their local general registrar’s office or a satellite voting location identified by the registrar’s office and cast their vote. Voters may use this option through Saturday, October 31—one of the longest early voting periods of any state.

Election Day
The other option is the traditional one: voting in person on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3, at your polling place. Polls will be open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Virginia has allocated federal CARES Act funding to ensure that all election officers have personal protective equipment, and Virginia Medical Reserve Corps volunteers will assist at polling places to ensure social distancing and sanitization measures are followed.

Virginia considers election security to be a top priority and has made significant progress in recent years to ensure a secure election process that places election integrity and voter confidence at the forefront. Additional information about election security in Virginia can be found here.

To register to vote or learn more about absentee voting in Virginia, visit elections.virginia.gov/absentee. Answers to frequently asked questions can be found here.

Follow the Department of Elections on Twitter at @vaElect, on Facebook at @VirginiaELECT, and on Instagram at @va_election.

See below for photos of Governor Northam casting his ballot at the Richmond general registrar’s office.

Governor Northam Proposes Voter Protection Measures Ahead of November General Election

Additional budget amendments address evictions, broadband, historical sites, and dam safety

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced proposals to expand access to voting for the November 3rd General Election amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The measures were unveiled by the Governor during a virtual Joint Meeting of the House Appropriations, House Finance, Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees, and will be considered by legislators during the special General Assembly session set to begin this afternoon.

“As we continue to navigate this pandemic, we must take additional steps to make it easier to vote, not harder,” said Governor Northam. “With these measures, we will protect public health and ensure Virginians can safely exercise their right to vote in the November election. Whether you put your ballot in the mail or vote in-person, voting will be safe and secure in our Commonwealth.

Governor Northam is putting forward three proposals aimed at addressing challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring all Virginians have safe and fair access to access to the ballot box for the November 3rd General Election.

  • Prepaid postage: Governor Northam’s proposed budget sets aside $2 million for prepaid return postage on all absentee ballots sent out for the November 3rd General Election.
  • Drop off boxes and drop off locations: The Governor’s proposal includes language expressly permitting localities to use drop boxes or implement drop off locations for Virginians who choose to vote absentee, under security standards to be set by the Virginia Department of Elections.
  • Absentee cure process:  This measure will ensure Virginians’ voting rights are protected by allowing them to fix an error on their absentee ballot. Currently, Virginians who make an error are not able to fix that error and therefore their ballot may be discarded. Many Virginians will be voting absentee for the first time this November, and this language will help ensure Virginians’ votes are counted.

The Governor’s proposed budget also includes funding for measures to reform policing; teach a more accurate version of Virginia history; expand safe, affordable housing; increase access to high-speed broadband; provide resources for urgent dam safety; and support Virginia’s public Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Additional information and presentations on the Governor’s proposed amendments to the 2020-2022 Biennial Budget can be found here.

Governor Northam’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

Good morning, Chairman Torian, Chairwoman Howell, Chairwoman Watts, Speaker Filler-Corn, Leader Saslaw, members of the General Assembly, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for the privilege of speaking with you this morning.

We’d rather all be together in person today, but in these times, we are being safe, and relying on technology. I want to thank our IT team for making the technology work.

I would like to recognize Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring, First Lady Pam Northam, and members of our Cabinet and staff. 

I am here today to update you on the Commonwealth’s revenues for the fiscal year that ended on June 30. 

This is a late-August tradition in Virginia, but this is no ordinary year. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives, our economy, and our budget. So I am also here to discuss actions I am proposing for the special session that begins today.

First, I want to discuss the latest efforts to fight the virus in Virginia. Overall, our daily case numbers seem to be trending slightly downward, which is a good thing. We’re now averaging around 15,000 tests a day, and our percent positivity is around 7 percent. These are positive trends, and we continue the work to increase testing and reduce the spread of the virus. We also continue reaching out to communities in need. For example, we’ve distributed more than 542,000 masks and 460,000 bottles of sanitizer to 40 localities through the Health Equity team.

The fact that we are doing this event virtually today speaks to the precautions we all are taking, and must continue to take.

***

Let’s turn to our economy. Last December, I stood before you to outline an ambitious and progressive budget that took Virginia in a new direction that the people demanded. That budget was built on revenues that were good, steady, and growing. This was possible because Virginia boasted a strong economy before the pandemic. We had near-record low unemployment, a stable budget, and strong financial reserves. 

So during the regular session, we worked together to craft a forward-looking budget that made generational investments in areas that had been underfunded. It advanced equity like never before, and cared for people who need help. Our budget included investments in early childhood education, tuition-free community college, public schools, affordable housing, our environment, state employees, and the largest reserve balance in state history. 

But even as we finalized the details of that plan, we could see that the pandemic was going to impact our revenues and our budget. What we didn’t know was how deep or long-lasting the impact might be.

We suspected it would be painful. And we were right. The United States continues to show recessionary trends. And it’s different from past economic downturns. This time, the cause is not an underlying problem in the economy, as we saw in 2008 when the housing market collapsed. No one could have foreseen that a pandemic would push the world into a recession. So there is no roadmap for how to get out of it. 

As a physician, I know the only way to solve our economic crisis is to solve our health crisis first. Our economy was booming before the pandemic, and it can fully rebuild only when this virus is behind us. This means that as we make budget decisions, this week and into the next session, we must keep in mind that we can’t know what is going to happen with the pandemic, when a vaccine will be available, or how much longer this will go on. 

So we need to follow the oath that doctors lead with: First, do no harm.

As we begin this special session, it’s important that we all make choices that preserve our financial options, especially for the period from now until the regular session in January. It’s also important to remember that every state is dealing with similar problems. No one has been immune to this crisis.

But states have handled it differently. Other states have slashed services, laid off workers, or furloughed employees to save money. Georgia cut nearly $1 billion from its education funding, while New Jersey is borrowing $10 billion to pay its bills. That’s half our general fund budget. Let me say that again—that’s half our budget.

We can all be very proud to say that in Virginia, we have been able to avoid cutting services or laying off large numbers of state workers. This is no accident. It is the result of taking thoughtful actions, and making prudent decisions. In the first few weeks of the pandemic, we put a freeze on hiring. We limited travel, and froze discretionary spending for state agencies. These actions contributed to unspent balances of $500 million.

At the reconvened session in April, my team worked with you to “unallot” most of the two and a quarter billion dollars in new spending that we had planned in the budget. We agreed that we would return to these important investments, once time had given us a better understanding of how this pandemic would affect our revenues. We also agreed not to make the draconian cuts that some called for. This would have hurt Virginia’s ability to serve people, and it would have slowed down our recovery. These decisions gave us a head start on the budget work we must do now and throughout the fall, and into the next regular session. I’ll talk more about that in a moment. 

Before we turn to that, it’s important to acknowledge that we have multiple ways to fund Virginia’s COVID response—not just our general fund. We have the COVID-19 Relief Fund, funded by a new tax on the so-called “gray machines.” We created this fund last session, and we set it up to last one year. It has a clear mission: to help pay for Virginia’s COVID response.

Another source is the federal CARES Act funding—approximately $3.1 billion. We have deployed this money strategically and prudently. We are allocating nearly 45 percent of it to local governments—roughly $1.3 billion. We have allocated more CARES Act dollars to localities than many other states, and we have done so more quickly. We know they are our partners, and they need help.

We have used these dollars to deliver basic services, and help people make it through. This means helping food banks, helping people pay their rent or mortgages, helping small businesses stay in business, helping people get the PPE they need, and a whole lot more. These actions have helped people. And they have kept this problem from being much worse.

So as we turn to the numbers, we all need to understand that the fiscal situation is serious in the Commonwealth, just like in every state. Virginia ended the 2020 fiscal year on June 30th with a $234 million shortfall in general fund revenue collections. While this is significant, it was less than projected, and we still saw an overall revenue increase of 2 percent over fiscal year 2019.

You will recall that some were calling on us to cut $3 billion from the last three months of the last fiscal year. We should be proud that this was not necessary. Looking forward, we now project that we’ll have $2.7 billion less than we expected in general fund revenue for the coming biennium. We feared worse. But this still requires serious and thoughtful budgeting and planning.

The drop in revenue was enough to trigger a reforecast of our economic outlook. The Joint Advisory Board of Economists and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Revenue Estimates have reviewed these numbers, and they have agreed on a revenue forecast that is recessionary.

This new forecast forms the basis of the budget we are presenting to you in the special session. Secretary Layne and our finance team will present the details in a few minutes.

***

Before we go into that, it’s important to remember where we are in the calendar, the budget cycle, and the pandemic response. In just four months, I will be back before you to present amendments to this budget. In fact, as soon as this special session wraps up, we will immediately begin that process.

In the budget cycle, we are only about six weeks into the fiscal year. Decisions that we make today will affect everything that happens throughout the rest of the two-year budget cycle. And this matters because we don’t know how long the pandemic will go on. Scientists offer a realistic hope that an effective vaccine will be developed in the coming months. Once that happens, it will take time to deploy and help Virginians gain that protection from the COVID-19 virus. We don’t know how long that will take either.

So I encourage all of us to follow a few guideposts for this session:

Number one: “cash is king.” That’s true for our family budgets, especially right now, and it’s true for government budgeting too. We need to preserve the liquidity that will enable us to operate the government, deliver services, and pay our bills. 

Number two: Don’t use one-time money to fund expenses that re-occur every year. If you receive an inheritance, and you spend it all today, you’ll have nothing tomorrow. This is common sense, and it’s also something the rating agencies reiterate with us every time they reaffirm our AAA Bond Rating.

Number three: When you DO have one-time money available, the right course is to invest in the future.

And finally, number four, we need to preserve financial options.

***

So let’s turn to specifics. You know that education has always been my top priority. For me, this meant a major expansion of early childhood education, and it meant tuition assistance and creating free community college for people going into high-need fields. I appreciate you endorsing these goals in the final budget you passed.

You will recall that we chose to “un-allot” these new investments earlier this year, once the pandemic hit. In the budget I present to you, I am choosing not to reinstate spending on my own top priorities. To be clear, I am doing this for one reason alone: To preserve our financial options so that we can make it through this pandemic. I need to be equally clear about the priorities we share: 

  • Teachers and state workers still need and deserve a raise. 
  • We need to invest more in behavioral health. 
  • The cost of tuition is still a major impediment.
  • And it remains important to invest in our transportation system, and in access to affordable health care.

We all share these priorities, and we will return to them in January, when the time is right. Just as our revenues now look better than we predicted when the pandemic began, we expect the December reforecast to show additional improvement about 16 weeks from now.

But for that to happen and allow us to return to these shared priorities, our economy must show improvement. For that, we need our businesses, large and small, to survive. I talk to CEOs and business leaders regularly, and many of them are facing real challenges. For example, airline travel has dropped 90 percent—that affects all the downstream businesses that supply that industry, many of which are based here in Virginia. Every time a business closes, people lose jobs, and communities lose part of their economic fabric. The pandemic is making businesses at every level rethink how they operate, which could create new opportunities for states looking to bring new business in.

Last year, we were all proud that CNBC named Virginia the best state in which to do business. We are still the best state for business, and as we move forward, we need to remember that keeping employers and jobs here will form the foundation of our economic recovery.

I fully intend to implement and carry out the progressive budget that you and I wrote together this past winter. It’s the right thing to do, and it reflects commitments we made to the people of Virginia.

But we have a crisis before us, so I am sending you a budget and legislation to address this crisis and the issues it has shined a spotlight on. This package will help people stay in their homes, with $88 million to combat evictions and expand affordable housing. This includes funding the eviction diversion pilot program, and making an historic $85 million investment into the Virginia Housing Trust Fund. Keeping people in their homes during this pandemic is a public health priority. That’s why we also created the Rent and Mortgage Relief Program, and it’s why we’ve previously allocated money to help people experiencing homelessness. 

This package will help bring more people online—to go to school, go to work, and get connected. It means $85 million for the infrastructure to expand access to broadband and high-speed internet. People in cities, small towns, and rural areas need this. Here’s why: 200,000 K-12 students, and 60,000 college students in Virginia lack access to broadband at home. This is long overdue, and as many schools prepare to start the school year virtually, their students need Internet access to participate.

This package will reform policing. It continues the reforms we began earlier this year, when we increased the felony larceny threshold, decriminalized simple possession of marijuana, began expanding eligibility for parole, and ended driver’s license suspensions that kept people from driving long after they finished their sentences. Now, it’s time to address the use of excessive force. Start training law enforcement officers better and more consistently, with more input from the community. It means civilian review panels, with real skills and standards. It means increasing diversity in the Virginia State Police, so troopers better reflect the communities they serve. And it means that when an officer goes rogue, they’re out of the profession, de-certified.

The package I’m presenting you reaffirms that we need to continue to make it easier to vote, not harder. Voting is fundamental to democracy. Thanks to legislation we passed in the regular session, photo ID is not required at the polls, and Election Day will be a state holiday. And any Virginia voter can vote early with “no excuse” absentee ballots—meaning you can vote early without having to give a reason.

Now, we need to help people vote safely. That means secure boxes to drop off your ballot, in addition to the standard postal service delivery. If you put your ballot in the mail, the state will pay the postage. All you have to do is turn on the TV to see why this is so important, but please know this: the Department of Elections is already working to prepare to start mailing ballots in just four weeks. For these reforms to matter in November, we must make them now. I ask you to move quickly to pass this budget, because the stakes are high for our country. To be clear, voting will be safe and secure in Virginia. Your mailed-in ballots will be counted. Virginia will take every action necessary to protect the vote.

***

When people vote, change happens. Virginians voted last fall, they demanded change, and we started delivering. But change doesn’t come only at the ballot box, especially when people are hurting. We’ve seen that this summer, across America and here in Virginia, as people took to the streets with a message that’s both simple and profound: Change faster.

So I’m sending you a package that lifts up Virginia’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, funds important cultural sites, and says to the world: This is American history. This package means more students visiting important sites. It means more historic sites and highway markers to tell a broader story. It’s time for Virginia to tell the whole story of American history, and I ask you to approve this package. 

And finally, my budget proposes investing $15 million for dam rehabilitation projects that can’t wait, along with other actions to preserve Virginia’s environment. We saw just this weekend across Virginia how important those infrastructure investments are. We had so much rain that 150 homes below a dam in Chesterfield had to be evacuated, and another dam near Pocahontas State Park would have failed had it not recently been upgraded.

Flooding in other communities, like Staunton and Hampton Roads recently, also speak to the fact that water management needs cannot wait. We must be responsible stewards of both the state’s money, and its infrastructure. Luckily, we are not starting from scratch. We have a base budget in place, and it would still allow us to operate the government, even if we made no changes in the coming months.

 We also have several options to fund COVID needs: federal CARES Act dollars, the gray machine funding, and our general fund budget. Additional needs for testing, PPE, and food security will require a large portion of the CARES Act dollars that remain. And as tax revenue from the gray machines starts to come in, I look forward to working with you to decide how we can best spend these dollars.

***

My friends, my fellow Virginians, these past few months have been an incredibly difficult time for literally everyone around the world. People have lost jobs. They’ve lost their businesses. Too many have lost their lives. Everyone is worried about what the future holds, and too many leaders are fanning the flames of anxiety. We need to change that too, and we will.

Here in Virginia, we need to plan for the long term, take actions that invest now, and preserve options for what we all hope is a brighter future. We have been making wise decisions throughout this pandemic, and I have faith that Virginia will again propel forward when this pandemic ends. I am proposing a budget and legislative package to make that happen, and I look forward to working with you all to pass these proposals. Thank you.

Governor Northam Signs Sweeping New Laws to Expand Access to Voting

Legislation expands early voting, makes Election Day a state holiday

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam has signed landmark new laws to repeal Virginia’s voter ID law, make Election Day a state holiday in Virginia, and expand access to early voting.

“Voting is a fundamental right, and these new laws strengthen our democracy by making it easier to cast a ballot, not harder,” said Governor Northam. “No matter who you are or where you live in Virginia, your voice deserves to be heard. I’m proud to sign these bills into law.”

Governor Northam signed these bills:

  • House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 111, sponsored by House Majority Leader Charniele Herring and Senator Janet Howell, respectively, allow early voting 45 days prior to an election without a stated excuse. Virginia currently requires voters who wish to vote absentee to provide the state with a reason, from an approved list, why they are unable to vote on Election Day.

  • House Bill 19 and Senate Bill 65, sponsored by Delegate Joe Lindsey and Senator Mamie Locke, respectively, remove the requirement that voters show a photo ID prior to casting a ballot. Voter ID laws disenfranchise individuals who may not have access to photo identification, and disproportionately impact low-income individuals, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities.  

  • House Bill 108 and Senate Bill 601, sponsored by Delegate Joe Lindsey and Senator Louise Lucas, respectively, make Election Day a state holiday, which will help ensure every Virginian has the time and opportunity to cast their ballot. In order to maintain the same number of state holidays, this measure repeals the current Lee-Jackson Day holiday, established over 100 years ago to honor Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

  • House Bill 235 and Senate Bill 219, sponsored by Delegate Joshua Cole and Senator David Marsden, respectively, implement automatic voter registration for individuals accessing service at a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office or the DMV website.

  • House Bill 1678, sponsored by Delegate Joe Lindsey, extends in-person polling hours from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM.

“We need more access to the ballot box, not less,” said Senator Louise Lucas. “I am so proud to be a part of new laws that expand access to voting and make our Commonwealth more representative of the people we serve. Today is an historic day.”

“Our democracy relies on equal access to the ballot box,” said House Majority Leader Charniele Herring. “I’m grateful to the Governor for his partnership in breaking down barriers to voting, and ensuring all Virginians have the opportunity to exercise this fundamental right.”

“Virginia’s photo ID law was designed to make it more difficult to vote,” said Delegate Joe Lindsey. “It is past time we repealed this law, and I’m grateful to the Governor for helping us get it done.”

In Support of Delegate Tyler

Dear Editor,

I am writing this article because it is very important for everyone to know Delegate Roslyn Tyler and the many accomplishments she has forth for and achieved over the last 14 years while representing the 75th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. As a Christian, medical professional and a small business owner, she has had a positive impact on the 75th District constituents and businesses. A respected and experienced public servant, Delegate Tyler has earned a reputation in Richmond for building consensus, making informed decisions and finding common sense solutions. More importantly, she makes sure ALL our voices are heard, democrats, republicans and independents.

Delegate Tyler was appointed by the House Speaker to serve on the Education, Militia Police & Public Safety and the Commerce and Labor Committee’s; in 2018 she was appointed to the House of Appropriations – Budget Committee. She has been a strong advocate for Education, healthcare, Virginia farmers, the logging and forestry industry and the public safety officers and hunting rights. Delegate Tyler serves on the Virginia Rural Center Board of Directors, the Joint Commission on Health, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission and a member of the Legislator Sportsmen and Rural Caucus.

Delegate Tyler stood up and carried legislation for the Virginia Education Association (HB 2332) that increased teacher’s salaries at or above the national average resulting in teacher’s receiving their highest pay raise in 15 years. As a member of the House of Appropriations, she was instrumental in increasing the salary for Correctional Officers and Deputy Sheriffs attracting over $11 million to improve infrastructure and create jobs. Delegate Tyler voted for Medicaid expansion providing 400,000 Virginians access to healthcare and affordable prescription drugs. Delegate Tyler successfully led the bi-partisan fight to protect hunting with dogs and sportsmen’s rights which was about to be eliminated in Virginia defeating the proposed law (HB 1900) 48-47 votes. Had she not fought for hunters, hunt clubs would have been forced to close their doors throughout Virginia.

As many of you have read flyers and seen false advertisements (from her opponent) on radio and television about Delegate Tyler visiting France. While serving on the Commerce and Labor Committee, Delegate Tyler was chosen in 2011 to be part of a bi-partisan delegation of Senators, Delegates and business owners to visit France to explore a multi-billion operation requesting to come to Virginia.  This trip was not funded by taxpayer dollars but business owners. Because of Virginia’s bi-partisan delegation approach to attract businesses, Virginia has been rated as the best state in the Nation to do business.

Delegate Tyler continues to work towards creating higher paying jobs and expansion of high-speed internet for homes and businesses in Southside Virginia, as an attempt to keep young graduates in our communities.

On Tuesday, November 5th I urge everyone to vote to re-elect Delegate Roslyn Tyler to the House of Delegates.

Thank you, Mary Beth Washington

(Editor's Note: Your letters may not always reflect the views of Emporia News. Letters to the Editor may be sent to news@emporianews.com and must include your name. Letters that may be considered inflamitory in nature will not be published. Do not include profanity, racial ephitets, lewd, demeaning or disparaging comments. Letters may be edited for space, clarity and/or grammar.)

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Virginia Republicans Announce Election Review Panel

Letter - Endorsing D. Keith Prince, Jr. for City Sheriff

Dear Editor-

As you know, Election Season is once again upon us.

The Democrats have a great ticket this year. Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam for Governor, Justin Fairfax for Lt. Gov. and Mark Herring for Attorney General will all work to move Virginia forward. Delegate Roslyn Tyler, running unopposed, will once again represent the 75th District in the House of Delegates.

In addition to the Statewide Candidates and Delegate Tyler, the Emporia-Greensville Democrats have endorsed D. Keith Prince, Jr. in the race for City Sheriff, the only contested race for a Constitutional Office.

Keith has made saving taxpayers money a priority, and plans to pursue any and all grant opportunities to help fund the office of Emporia Sheriff, and is hopeful that the entire budget for the Sheriff’s Office can be funded with grants.

Keith has served both in the City Sheriff’s office and as an office of the Emporia Police Department and is an Emporia Native. In addition to his years of service, Keith has a good relationship with a very diverse group of citizens.

During his 20 years of law enforcement in this community, Keith has served on the Meherrin Drug Task Force – a multi-jurisdictional operation that covered the City of Emporia and the counties of Greensville, Southampton and Isle of Wight.

For six years, Keith served as Detective on the Drug Interdiction detail and was given the Public Service Award by Neil McBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Keith received this award for his service on an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force on a case that spanned from Cape Cod to Miami.

Keith’s service on this task force started with a traffic stop that resulted in the seizure of 9,000 Oxycodone pills. All-in-all, thirteen people were arrested and one million dollars worth of drugs, currency and vehicles were seized and multiple unsolved cases in South Florida are now closed.  Monies seized in the line of Keith’s duties have funded the purchase of nine fully equipped police vehicles and additional equipment for the Emporia Police Department.

Keith believes strongly in community involvement is the key to leadership, and his involvement in the community spans decades and includes service as a Board Member and Operations Officer for the Greensville County Rescue Squad and was voted the Squadsman of the Year for 1996. Keith currently serves on the Fundraising Committee for the Citizens United to Preserve the Greensville County Training School and is on the committee working to bring a Boy’s and Girl’s Club back to serve the youth of the City of Emporia and Greensville County.

Our committee invited both candidates in the race for City Sheriff to meet with us.  Both candidates were given the opportunity to speak and were asked questions from the members present.  The unanimous decision of the group was to endorse D. Keith Prince, Jr.

We feel that Keith will be a force for good in our community and live up to his campaign slogan – “committed to the community, dedicated to progress.”

Both the City and County have new voting machines this year. Both use paper ballots that are marked and fed into an optical scanner. These machines are extremely easy to use.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 7, 2017. Polls are open from 6 am to 7 pm.  Don’t miss this opportunity to exercise your guaranteed American Right - VOTE.

See you at the polls.

George Morrison, Chairman

Emporia-Greensville Democratic Committee

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Election Day Is November 7th, 2017

In case you have not seen all of the political advertisements on television over the last few weeks, there is an Election on Tuesday, November 7th, 2017.

This will be the first election using the new voting machines in both the City and County. The former direct entry voting machines were recently decertified by the State Board of Elections, forcing both localities to invest in more up-to-date technology.

While the voting machines are made by different companies, they work the same way.

Step one is to obtain your ballot. This works just the way it always has – give the Election Official your name and ID and they will give you a paper ballot, just as they did before the advent of electronic voting machines.

After you receive your ballot, you will mark it by filling in the oval beside the candidate you wish to vote for. You may or may not be given a pen to mark the ballot, but any black ball-point pen will work. According to one member of the Greensville County Electoral Board you will be given a Bic pen to mark your ballot.

Once your ballot is marked you will take it to the machine and feed it into the scanner, just like you used to do with the ballot box. Do not fold your ballot, but do follow the instructions from the Election Official when you feed your ballot into the machine.

That is it. You’re done, you can get your sticker to let people know that you voted and enjoy the rest of your day.

To prove how easy the process is, there is a video in this article. If you are really uncomfortable with the new process, you may take a family member of friend to help you vote

In addition to the video, there are also images of the Sample Ballots for both the City and the County. You may click on either one to get a PDF that you can print.

If you have any questions, need an absentee ballot, or wish to vote absentee in person, please call your General Registrar. In the City of Emporia, call Ashley Wall at (434)634-9533 or stop by the Municipal Building at 201 South Main Street (across the hall from the City Council Chamber). In the County, call Susan Conwell at (434)348-4228 or visit the Greensville County Government Center at 1781 Greensville County Circle (next to the Board of Supervisors meeting room on the south end of the building).

 

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Endorsed by Sanders, Perriello campaigns in Richmond

By Tyler Hammel, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – In his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor, Tom Perriello says he would make community college free, raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and confront the Trump administration over its policies on immigration and other issues.

Perriello – who has won an endorsement from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders – discussed those topics Monday night at a town-hall style meeting at Virginia Union University in Richmond.

Promising to combat President Donald Trump’s administration and help create a “community of conscience,” the Charlottesville native received consistent applause from the crowd.

He touted his support of the Affordable Care Act when he served in the U.S. Congress in 2009-11. Trump, who succeeded Barrack Obama as president in January, has vowed to repeal and replace the ACA. Perriello gave credit to demonstrations such as the Women’s March on Washington for preventing that from happening.

“Five months ago, people could have curled up on the couch and cried, and I’m sure all of us did. But instead, people decided to say, ‘No, this isn’t who we are as a commonwealth; this is not something we are going to stand by passively and watch,’” Perriello said. “Because of these efforts, because of the marches, because of the protests, because of the stories, today the Affordable Care Act remains in place.”

Perriello also discussed his hope to provide free community college to Virginia residents, calling it a good investment. He said trickle-down economics – the notion that tax cuts for the wealthy will generate benefits for poorer people – doesn’t work.

“What the evidence does show you is when you actually increase wages and invest in people, then you do get growth locally, and more growth for small business,” Perriello said. “This is not something we’re doing out of the goodness of our hearts. We’re doing this because it’s a good investment strategy.”

A big part of Perriello’s speech was establishing himself as a viable candidate in the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

Perriello announced his candidacy in January, when it appeared that Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam would be uncontested in seeking the nomination.

Perriello encouraged supporters to knock on doors and volunteer on his behalf to spread the word about his campaign. That was a critical strategy at the time: Only one in five Virginians even knew his name, according to a poll published in February by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University.

Last week, a survey by the center showed that Perriello and Northam were tied: Each had support from 26 percent of Democratic-leaning voters; almost half of the people polled were undecided.

At the event at Virginia Union University, Perriello had few critical things to say about Northam. Instead, he mentioned issues on which the two candidates agreed – but Perriellosaid he was the first to take those positions.

“We came out and led the way on standing up for a $15-an-hour minimum wage. A few weeks later, we saw Ralph and others court that decision,” Perriello said. “Same thing with criminal justice reform and debt-free community college. I think what we need right now is someone who’s actually leading a policy agenda.”

Perriello echoes many of the positions that Sanders espoused during his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination last year. On Tuesday, Sanders issued a statement endorsing Perriello.

“We need to elect progressives at every level of government if we are going to beat back the dangerous agenda of the Trump Administration and its Republican allies,” the statement said. “Tom is committed to fighting the rigged economy and income inequality. He was the first major statewide candidate in Virginia to run on a $15 minimum wage and the first to say two years of community college should be tuition-free.”

Perriello will face off against Northam in the Democratic primary election on June 13. Northam has the support of outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe and most Democrats in the Virginia General Assembly and the state’s congressional delegation.

On the Republican side, three candidates are vying for the GOP nomination for governor: Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee; state Sen. Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach; and Corey Stewart, who chairs the Prince William Board of County Supervisors.

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Mary Person Wins Second Term

Incumbent Mayor Mary L. Person has been re-elected for a second term. Only 48 votes separated her from her opponent, Marva Dunn.

In the only competitive City Council Race, Incumbent L. Dale Temple overcame the challenge from Marvin A "Cow" Harvell in a major landslide.

Two other City Council races were uncontested, Carol Mercer will serve 4 more years and James Saunders returns to City Council, replacing James Ewing, who decided not to seek re-election.

Both City and County voters (and the rest of the state) by voting heavily in favor of Hillary Clinton.

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision to undo the Gerrymandering of the General assembly in House District 3, J, Randy Forbes decided not to run. A. Donald McEachin and Michael Wade both survived the primary process. State Senator McEachin, by a wide margin, bested Michael Wade to serve the Fourth Congressional District in the US House of Representatives.

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Full Ballot for County in November

While the majority of candidates will be running unopposed, there are a few competitive races on the ballot in the November General Election. 

Unopposed races included State Senator L. Louise Lucas and House of Delegates Member Roslyn Tyler, both Democrats.  Running unopposed for Constitutional Offices in Greensville County, Patricia Watson (Commonwealth's Attorney), Martha Swenson (Commissioner of the Revenue), and Pamela Lifsey (Treasurer).  This year's race will see competition for the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court as incumbent Bobby Wrenn will face opposition from Debra Brown.

The County Sheriff's race includes four candidates (five are listed in the chart from the State Board of Elections, as one is listed twice).  Timmy Jarratt will run as the incumbent in the wake of Sheriff Edward's recent retirement.  Also in the race for County Sheriff are Derrick Banks, Stephen King and former Sheriff Wyatt Lee.

Longtime Board of Supervisors Member James C. Vaughn is not standing for re-election this year, running for his District One seat are James Avent and Raymond Bryant.  Supervisor Margaret Lee from District Three will face competition from Keith Mitchell.  Fourth District Supervisor and Chairman Peggy Wiley is running unopposed as is the Supervisor Mike Ferguson from District Two.

Both James S. Ferguson and Anthony Gillus are running to be Directors of the Chowan Basin Soil and Water Conservation District.  Both are currently Directors for that board covering Greensville, Sussex and Southampton Counties.

All four people running for Greensville County School Board are running unopposed.  They are Bessie Ried, Danny Rook, Rhonda Jones Gilliam, and Christopher Vaughan.  School Board Members for the City of Emporia are still appointed by the City Council.

On the ballot for the City of Emporia are State Senator and Delegate and the shared Constitutional Offices of the Commonwealth's Attorney, County Sheriff and Clerk of the Circuit Court.

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