(The Center Square) – A witness signature will be required for absentee ballots cast in Virginia in the gubernatorial election next month, but some Democrats are asking Gov. Ralph Northam to waive the requirement.
Until last year, all absentee ballots were required to be signed by a witness who confirmed the authenticity of the voter. The rule was temporarily suspended during the 2020 election as a COVID-19 precaution, but is currently in place for the 2021 elections, in which Virginians will select their next governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and state house delegates.
A statement released from the Department of Elections stated absentee ballots will need to have a witness signature in order to be counted as a valid vote during this election. If a witness signature is missing, the state will notify the voter who will have the opportunity to correctly submit the vote.
The voter will be notified within three days if the ballot requires any modification and will have until noon on the third day after the election to correct the ballot. The election is Nov. 2, which means the voter would have until noon Nov. 5.
Northam signed a law that exempts the witness requirement during a declared public health emergency, but the commonwealth’s state of emergency expired several months ago. Some Democrats have urged Northam to waive the requirement, citing continued COVID-19 concerns.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted 9-1 along partisan lines to ask Northam to waive the requirement, according to InsideNova.com. The county has still maintained a local state of emergency because of the virus.
“No one should have their ballot rejected because they're unwilling to risk their health and safety to vote,” Chair Jeffrey McKay said during the meeting, according to the article. “We want to be a county that promotes voter participation and doesn't punish people.”
Although President Joe Biden carried the commonwealth by more than 10 percentage points, the gubernatorial race is looking much closer. Most polls show Democrat Terry McAuliffe with a narrow lead over Republican Glenn Youngkin. According to election analyst website FiveThirtyEight, poll averages are showing McAuliffe with only a 2.5% lead.
Absentee and in-person early voting is already underway. If an absentee ballot is dropped off in person, it must be returned to the general registrar’s office or a drop-off location by 7 p.m. on election day. If it is mailed in, it must be postmarked before election day and be received by the registrars by noon on the Friday after the election, Nov. 5.