Elections and Voting
Our democracy faces serious threats at home and abroad- and strengthening it will require dramatic changes. The Commonwealth of Virginia needs to lead the charge on building a more perfect union- starting with a democracy that includes every citizen. That means catering to the needs of the people of Virginia, not to politicians.
That means voters must not be denied their rights because of badly run elections or because some people on one side think it’s better if fewer people are able to vote.
That means we cannot have multiple classes of citizens, unduly restricting the fundamental rights that all Virginians are owed.
That means empowering our citizens to know that they have a stake in their own communities, and that we have a responsibility as a Commonwealth- and a pressing necessity!- to do whatever we can to prevent voter suppression and expand voting rights to give us all a voice in our democracy.
End hide & seek elections
There is an election nearly every week in this country, and those countless election days decrease turnout and ensure only the most diligent voters participate. Some small elections have turnouts of under 10%; presidential turnout is usually five times higher. Consolidating our elections would help increase participation and reduce the time commitment required to vote. We should make whatever moves we can to help local and state elections meet this standard.
Let voters choose how and when they vote
There is no magic to voting on a Tuesday. In the 21st century, everyone should be able to vote when it is convenient, without the burden of missing work, school, or family responsibilities. We should expand the options by mailing ballots to every eligible voter, by expanding early voting, or, at the very least, have no-excuse absentee ballot voting. States that have done this have the highest level of voter participation and lowest levels of voter fraud in the country. I’d even go so far to say we can, and should, make Election Day a state holiday.
Give all Virginians their rights, and restore the First Freedom to Free People
In Virginia, hundreds of thousands of people who were formerly incarcerated are denied the right to vote for the rest of their lives.
Virginians who have been released from incarceration deserve a shot at voting rights again– it is absurd to think that Virginians have supposedly “paid their debt to society,” but then we, as a society, say “Uh uh, nope- no voting for you. Not. Gonna. Happen.”
We must restore the voting rights of these returning citizens. We're doing a better job of that in Virginia than most states, but it shouldn't be incumbent on the Governor alone to restore those rights- it should be automatic. We shouldn't have two classes of citizens. If you’ve done what our society and criminal justice system expects of you, you should be able to participate in our democracy.
Support nonpartisan, independent redistricting and abolish gerrymandering
Our current system allows politicians to pick their voters; it’s supposed to be the other way around. When politicians draw their own district maps, their focus is either to benefit their party or protect incumbents. We must allow citizens who aren’t employed in the political process to draw maps that are intended to represent the public, not the people whose names are on the ballot. States that have implemented such a process have seen an increase in competitive elections and a delegation that matches the overall makeup of the state.
In Virginia, it's been pretty clear that our legislators- and that's members of both parties- can't be trusted to do this on our own. So we need to give that power back to the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Upend the voter registration system
The responsibility for ensuring every citizen has the ability to vote should be on the government, not individual voters. That means citizens should not have to apply to vote— the government should register eligible voters automatically. Over the last 3 years, 13 states have enacted automatic voter registration systems in which they add a known eligible citizen to the voter registration rolls when they have an interaction with the state. Oregon recently added 225,000 new registrants by this method, and nearly 100,000 new voters participated in the 2016 elections in that state. This also has the added benefit of helping to reduce voter fraud, which many claim is a threat beyond compare- so surely they’ll join us on this venture?
Enshrine majority rule
In most contests, whoever gets the most votes wins, regardless of whether they get a majority of votes. That's why we need to move to ranked choice voting, where voters rank candidates in order of their preference, which would require candidates to earn the vote of more than 50% of the people he or she represents.
Also known as instant runoff voting, ranked choice voting has bipartisan support in the Virginia legislature. For anyone who’s ever felt trapped by choosing “the lesser of two evils” in the voting booth, this is the perfect way to empower voters by giving them a real choice, as well as ensuring every candidate elected to office received a majority of support from their community. This should happen, at the very least, in partisan primaries and in localities, if not at every level.
Make Election Day into Election Week
If we want to say that voting is the pre-eminent right of our democracy, then why are we arbitrarily making it harder for people to exercise it? If you’re a working Virginian, or have sick kids, or have to travel, it can be hard to make it to vote.
One novel idea? Replace Election Day with Election Week.
This period would actually last for 11 days — shorter than voting in states with extensive early voting and mail balloting, but far longer than the 13 states with no early voting — beginning on a Saturday and ending on a Tuesday to adhere to our Election Day tradition. A full array of polling places would be open during the two weekends of voting, making it easier for people who work during the week to vote. This voting period would also likely reduce congestion — and long lines — at the polls. Less chaos and shorter lines would lead to fewer errors by poll workers, less rushing in the voting booth, and a smoother voting experience.