Public Comments for: HB974 - Polling place; assistance for certain voters, definition of disability.
Voting should be simple, quick, and accesible to everyone. We have a lot of elderly and/or disabled residents, people who don't have access to a car, or members of the military serving overseas. Our legislators in Richmond should be working to make every Virginia's voice is heard. In addition, returning citizens should be eligible to vote once their sentence is completed. If they've served their time in prison as determined by a judge and/or jury, no purpose is served by denying them the right to vote.
Virginia enacted several new voting laws in 2020 and 2021 to make voting more accessible during the pandemic. Early in-person voting hours were increased, mail-in absentee ballots no longer required a witness signature, more drop-box locations were available. These changes led to record voter turnout (with insignificant fraud) in both the 2020 presidential election and the 2021 gubernatorial election. Therefore I oppose any new bill that would restrict our rights to accessible voting.
The League of Women Voters of Virginia recognizes that temporary and permanent disabilities that are not physical in nature can affect a voter's ability to vote in person. Examples would include a voter who is on the autism spectrum, or one who is immunocompromised. Being able to vote curbside, like voters with physical disabilities, would make voting in person possible for them. The League supports this bill.
I support HB 974. I have used curbside voting and been very grateful to have this option. This bill recognizes that not all disabilities are physical and that other kinds of disabilities can keep people from using an inside polling place. Therefore, I hope you will pass HB 974.
Voting is a constitutional right. Any law that restricts rather than expands our constitutional right & DUTY to vote is simply voter suppression. We must not repeal any expansions of absentee ballots. Do not decrease early voting. - extend the number of days allowed. Do not eliminate any ballot box locations- expand. We have no need to re-register absentee ballots every year. No excuse absentee voting is absolutely crucial. The state must provide easy and free access to voter ID if a photo is required. Since the USPS has slowed considerably, we must keep the 3 day rule for receiving ballots after election day. All local elections must be on Election Day (in Nov). Election Day should be a holiday. Until we do a complete overhaul of campaign finance & eliminate dark money/special interests there must be no restrictions on outreach, education & registration or from where a candidate may collect funds. Voter registration up to and including Election Day is absolutely crucial to ensure all citizens vote. I support all bills expanding our rights and abilities to make voting as easy as possible. I oppose all bills attempting to restrict any access to our ballot and our vote. The process is too important for the elected officials to be able to restrict us from our duty to be informed voters. Keep expanding our rights. Do not restrict, suppress or subvert them.
As a consistent Fairfax County voter, a retired speech/language clinician and early childhood special educator, and an active participant in activities for the deaf and hard of hearing, I urge you to support the changes in the voter accessibility bill to facilitate persons with a variety of disabilities in addition to the physical disabilities in the current law, so that it mirrors ADA. Voting is a fundamental right for all Americans, including those with disabilities.
As a person with POTS Syndrome (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) and an anxiety disorder, I found curbside voting to be essential in my ability to vote in the last election. Although I can physically stand for short periods of time, the longer I stand in place the higher my heart rate goes which leads to my having severe dizziness. I had great fear about showing up at my early voting location and being turned away when trying to vote curbside due to my disability. If curbside voting is not available to all persons with disabilities, I believe persons fundamental rights in our commonwealth are being taken away. I urge you to make it possible for all persons to exercise this important right by passing HB974.
I am writing as a special educator on behalf of amending the current code and expanding the definition of disability for the purpose of assistance outside a polling place. The current definition applies to those with a physical disability. This amendment will expand the definition to apply to any permanent or temporary disability. The amendment will make the language of Virginia code consistent with the definition of disability in the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a special educator in Virginia for more than 40 years, I have seen great progress in the education and preparation of individuals with disabilities for participation as adults in their communities. Still, as adults, persons with disabilities face limits to civic engagement and full participation in the life of the community. The current practice in code of providing outside assistance to those with temporary or permanent physical disabilities is a step in the right direction; however, it limits assistance to others in the disability community who might benefit. Expanding the definition, as proposed in this amendment, and aligning it with the ADA definition of disability will further the goal of full civic engagement for adults with disabilities. Eva Thorp Associate Professor Emerita Special Education/Early Childhood Education George Mason University