In August, Herring agreed with a federal judge to drop the witness voter requirement. It appears that these changes weren’t communicated well across the state. The RPV cites accounts of voters confused because their ballot language contradicts their voter instructions.
“RPV opposed the many last-minute changes made to our election laws, but now that those changes have been made, every voter deserves accurate information about how to cast a ballot,” RPV Chairman Rich Anderson explained in a press release. “That’s why we have gone back to court to insist that they live up to their obligation to explain the elimination of witness signature requirement to voters.”
The League of Women Voters of Virginia (LWV) originally filed suit against the Virginia State Board of Elections this past April, challenging the safety of witness signature requirements on ballots during a pandemic. The national and Virginia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed on behalf of Virginia’s LWV.
In May, a federal court did away with the witness signature requirement for the June primary. Both parties in the case agreed to extend this exception for the presidential election.
However, voters across the state report that absentee ballot instructions still read as though a witness signature were required. Counties and cities have the option to draft their own instructions or adopt the commonwealth’s recommended instructions. Registrars reported that the sudden change in voting law didn’t leave them with enough time to adjust accordingly. This resulted in mixed messages where sometimes instructions would say no witness signature was required and the outer envelope would say otherwise.
Anderson believes the lack of diligence to ensure the proper changes were made reflects the AG’s true intentions.
“We have come to expect the Attorney General to ignore his obligation to defend Virginia’s laws and to protect less fortunate voters, but ignoring a court order that he himself requested is a new low. It’s now quite clear that Herring’s actions in this case were not about protecting Virginians’ voting rights, but scoring points with the ACLU as part of his recently-announced re-election bid.”
Herring’s term ends in 2022. Prior to his current term as AG, Herring served as a Democratic state senator for District 33.
Herring’s spokeswoman, Charlotte Gomer, stated that the RPV’s case is baseless.
“This is just the [RPV’s] desperate attempt to manufacture voting issues where there are none.”
However, even the ACLU concurred with voter testimonies and RPV’s assessment, calling them “unnecessarily confusing.”
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Background Photo “Ballots” by Brendan C. CC BY 2.0.