by Brandon Jarvis

Senate Democrats once again killed several bills on Tuesday that would reduce access to early voting in Virginia. While Republicans have started to embrace early voting in Virginia, they continue to try to roll back the policies enacted by Democrats in 2020.

Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg) introduced multiple bills before the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee that he acknowledged beforehand would likely fail to survive.

The first, SB 42, would have reduced the early voting time from 45 days to 21. He pointed out that Virginia will have 135 days of early voting this year, including the presidential primary, congressional primaries and the general election.

“That is a whole lot of voting,” Peake said while noting the stress it adds to registrars.

The legislation died on an 8-6 party-line vote.

Another bill from Peake, SB 92, would have eliminated the same-day voter registration policy on election day. His legislation would have halted voter registration on the final day of early voting, attributing the proposed legislation to relieve the added workload to registrars on election day.

New Virginia Majority, the League of Women Voters and the Virginia NAACP opposed the bill. The Virginia Education Association also spoke out against the bill, saying, “We need to give it more time.”

The legislation died on an 8-6 party-line vote.

SB 32 from Peake is legislation that he has been pushing for years. It would require the registrar to check someone’s social security number when registering to vote to ensure they are the correct person.

When Republicans had the majority in the Senate, both Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Gov. Ralph Northam vetoed this bill. Now that Democrats have had the majority for five years, Peake has been unable to advance this bill out of committee.

New Virginia Majority and the Virginia NAACP opposed the bill, which ultimately died on a party-line vote.

Peake combined his photo ID legislation with a similar bill filed by Sen. John McGuire (R-Goochland). It would require the presentation of photo identification when voting. The bill was killed on a party-line vote.

One Republican successfully advanced a bill through the Democratic-majority committee on Tuesday.

Sen. David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke County) was able to advance a bill that would not allow a candidate who drops out during a primary race to appear on the general election ballot when early voting has already started.

Suetterlein’s reasoning for the bill is that a candidate can see early voting trends and drop out of the primary race just days before the election to run as an Independent instead.

The candidate could still run as a write-in with Suetterlein’s bill, which was an important distinction for the committee after Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Orange) tried to pass a similar bill earlier in the meeting. His legislation would not have allowed write-in candidates to win — which bothered Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Charlottesville), who was worried about people’s votes being wasted.

The bill from Reeves was killed, but Suetterlein’s bill advanced on a 10-4 vote with some bipartisan support.

“Today in the Senate Privileges in Elections Committee, Democrats stood together to maintain the freedoms and ease of voting in Virginia and keep the Virginia Voting Rights Act in place,” the Senate Democratic Caucus said in a statement after the meeting.

State Sen. Aaron Rouse (D-Va Beach) is the new chair of the committee and accused Republicans of attacking voting rights in a statement to Virginia Scope. “Senate Republicans are continuing their backwards assault on Virginians’ voting rights, but not on my watch,” he said. “We will protect voting access and standing up for Virginia voters because nothing is more sacred in a democracy than our right to vote.”

The committee also postponed working on constitutional amendments for this session. An amendment must be passed two years in a row, with a House election between the sessions. The next House elections will take place in 2025.

By vascope