Virginia Dems Push To Ditch Witness Rule For Absentee Ballots As Youngkin Gains Ground

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Virginia Democrats are pressing Gov. Ralph Northam to waive the witness signature requirement for absentee ballots cast by mail for next month’s statewide elections.

According to local outlet InsideNova, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted in a 9-1 decision to submit a letter to Northam, claiming that acquiring a witness signature puts individuals at risk of catching the Wuhan virus.

“No one should have their ballot rejected because they’re unwilling to risk their health and safety to vote,” said the letter’s original sponsor, Chair Jeffrey McKay. “We want to be a county that promotes voter participation and doesn’t punish people.”

“During the 2020 election cycle, Virginia made historic strides to expand voting access while protecting the health and safety of our residents as well as the integrity of our electoral process. This progress should be extended to the signature requirement,” he added in a separate statement.

The board’s lone Republican Pat Herrity voted against the measure, saying that revoking the requirement would be a “blow to election integrity.”

“Witness signatures are important as they provide another line of defense against voter fraud,” he said. “They’ve been deemed important enough by the General Assembly that they were reestablished outside the state of emergency.”

Herrity also added that waiving the requirement now would be “problematic,” given that early voting in the state began in mid-September and many absentee ballots have already been mailed to Virginia voters.

“To do this in the middle of an election process in the name of COVID I think is nonsensical,” he said.

The move to waive signature verification by Fairfax Democrats comes amid a highly contentious gubernatorial race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin. According to a newly released Monmouth University poll, “Youngkin (46%) and McAuliffe (46%) hold identical levels of support among all registered voters.”

The survey also found Youngkin leading among independent voters (48 to 39 percent) and making gains with women voters. While McAuliffe currently holds a 4-point (47 to 43 percent) edge among women, the narrow lead is down from the sizable 14-point advantage the Democrat held last month (52 to 38 percent).

“Suburban women, especially in Northern Virginia, have been crucial to the sizable victories Democrats have enjoyed in the commonwealth since 2017,” said Director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute Patrick Murray. “However, their support is not registering at the same level this time around. This is due partly to a shift in key issues important to these voters and partly to dampened enthusiasm among the party faithful.”

The poll’s results on which issues voters care about most reflect Murray’s suggestion. Nearly half of respondents (45 percent) chose jobs and the economy as “the most important first or second factor” determining their votes, followed by education and schools at 41 percent. Only 23 percent said COVID-19, suggesting that Democrats’ focus on the forever pandemic may not be resonating with many voters.

The poll was conducted among 1,005 registered Virginia voters from Oct. 16-19 and has a 3.1 percent margin of error.

Shawn Fleetwood is an intern at The Federalist and a student at the University of Mary Washington, where he plans to major in Political Science and minor in Journalism. He also serves as a state content writer for Convention of States Action. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnFleetwood

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