Early voting’s pivot as Youngkin’s pawn

7/13/2023, 6 p.m.
Why are Republicans like Gov. Glenn A. Youngkin suddenly supportive of early voting and same-day registration after spending the past ...

Why are Republicans like Gov. Glenn A. Youngkin suddenly supportive of early voting and same-day registration after spending the past legislative session fruitlessly seeking to get rid of those options?

Because there is a strong prospect that Democrats could win a majority in the Virginia House of Delegates and maintain their majority in the Senate.

And if Republicans are to get rid of all the changes Democrats have pushed through that have turned Virginia into one of the states where voting is open and easy, they have to get more of their supporters to turn out.

A Free Press look at the upcoming contests suggests that Democrats are already on track to win 47 House seats and need only win an additional four seats to gain full command of the chamber. Republicans appear to be assured 39 seats. That accounts for 86 of the 100 seats.

That leaves 14 competitive seats, of which the GOP must win 12 to keep control of the House.

In the Senate, Democrats appear likely to win 19 seats, while Republicans appear on track to claim 17, with the decision on control to be decided by the results in four contests.

That prospect is making the governor nervous, which is why he is organizing to get more Republicans to vote prior to Election Day. Democrats have previously outstripped Republicans in voting early.

House Democratic Leader Don Scott rightly considers the GOP’s new focus on early voting “hypocrisy.”

He called it remarkable that Republicans are now supportive of a program “that they tried to prevent from ever existing.”

He noted that Republicans have spent the past decade “feeding their base conspiracy theories about voter fraud and working to make it harder for Virginians to vote at every turn.”

Virginia has a long history of working to keeping ordinary citizens from voting. Prior to 2020 when Democrats gained control of both houses, Virginia ranked 49th for ease of voting. In other words, this state was near the bottom.

Republicans would like to roll back the changes Democrats initiated that have pushed Virginia to the 11th easiest state in which to cast a ballot. The GOP goal is to restore the barriers in order to reduce voter participation.

During the 2023 session, Delegate Scott stated that the GOP House majority voted to shorten the early voting period, ban absentee ballot drop boxes, reinstate a strict photo ID law, end same-day registration, cancel the vote- by-mail option and increase purges of voter rolls.

All of the changes died in the Senate.

The bottom line: Supporters of the new and improved voting system in Virginia cannot be complacent.

Anyone who thinks this state is better for making it easier and simpler for people to vote has to turn out and vote to keep Democrats in control of at least the Senate or the House, and possibly both, to preserve the new approach.

In this area, just as is the case for abortion rights and sensible gun laws, the space for compromise has simply disappeared.

We stand with those who want to make it simple and easy for people to participate in choosing our leaders.