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Senators Warner, Kaine Urge Virginia Registrars to Ensures All Virginians Can Access Their Right to Vote

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From Senators Warner and Kaine:

WARNER & KAINE URGE VIRGINIA REGISTRARS TO ENSURE ALL VIRGINIANS CAN ACCESS THEIR RIGHT TO VOTE

~ Letter follows controversial changes to the Postal Service that could affect mail-in voting ~ 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) urged Virginia’s election registrars to do everything in their power to ensure that all Virginians can access their right to vote amid controversial reforms to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the ongoing public health emergency. In a letter, the Senators strongly encouraged the Commonwealth’s 133 registrars to take advantage of the steps Virginia recently took to expand early voting and to ensure that no American is forced to choose between their right to vote and their health.

“We understand you are currently preparing to handle the anticipated surge in absentee voting, both in-person and by mail, and we urge you to be thoughtful about those steps, particularly in light of delays in the processing of mail as a result of changes made to the U.S. Postal Service,” wrote the Senators. “We urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that both of these important safeguards of the American franchise can be fully exercised, including by working with your local governance body to expand the number of satellite sites where in-person absentee voting is available and the number of business hours during which those sites are open.”

They continued, “The Commonwealth of Virginia has made major strides in recent years to increase access to the franchise. Prior to the current public health emergency, Virginia not only expanded early voting opportunities, but also implemented no-excuse absentee voting. We urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that both of these important safeguards of the American franchise can be fully exercised, including by expanding the number of sites where in-person absentee voting is available and the number of hours during which those sites are open.”

This letter follows the implementation of sweeping operational changes to the Postal Service that have significantly delayed mail, in what many have called an attempt by the Trump Administration to undermine mail-in voting ahead of the November election. This comes as more and more Americans look to mail-in voting and other convenience voting opportunities in order to participate in the election while staying safe during the ongoing pandemic.

In their letter, the Senators also asked the registrars to immediately alert the Senators and officials at the Virginia Department of Elections regarding any constraints in safeguarding voting, including in securing resources to organize safe polling locations or finding adequate numbers of poll workers to staff early voting sites. 

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been vocal proponents of securing Americans’ right to vote and of reversing any changes to USPS that have affected the reliability of mail delivery. Earlier this week, the Senators called on the Postmaster General to testify before Congress and provide clear, transparent answers on service delays. Last week, they joined their colleagues in a letter asking the Postmaster General not to take any further action that makes it harder and more expensive for states and election jurisdictions to mail ballots. Sen. Warner has also demanded immediate action to ensure that Veterans and the VA can count on USPS for the timely delivery of essential prescription drugs, and he has pressed the Postmaster General regarding Virginians’ concerns about delayed mail service.  

A copy of the letter is available here and below. 

There is enormous interest nationwide in the upcoming election, with record interest in absentee voting across the Commonwealth. However, the current public health emergency and recent changes to longstanding Postal Service policies have raised concerns about the ability of Americans to safely exercise their franchise through absentee balloting. We write to urge you to do as much as feasible to ensure all Virginians can access their right to vote, including taking advantage of the historic steps Virginia recently took to expand early voting.  

During the primary season, the pandemic caused delays and hazardous conditions for voters nationwide. Going forward, it is evident that substantive measures must be taken to ensure that no American must choose between their franchise and their health. The urgent need for safe voting procedures, including safe, secure alternatives to voting in-person on Election Day, has significantly increased interest in convenience voting opportunities. 

We understand you are currently preparing to handle the anticipated surge in absentee voting, both in-person and by mail, and we urge you to be thoughtful about those steps, particularly in light of delays in the processing of mail as a result of changes made to the U.S. Postal Service. We urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that both of these important safeguards of the American franchise can be fully exercised, including by working with your local governance body to expand the number of satellite sites where in-person absentee voting is available and the number of business hours during which those sites are open.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has made major strides in recent years to increase access to the franchise. Prior to the current public health emergency, Virginia not only expanded early voting opportunities, but also implemented no-excuse absentee voting. We urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that both of these important safeguards of the American franchise can be fully exercised, including by expanding the number of sites where in-person absentee voting is available and the number of hours during which those sites are open. To the extent that you face constraints in this context, including in finding adequate numbers of poll workers to staff early voting sites or securing resources to organize safe polling locations, we urge you to immediately alert officials at the Virginia Department of Elections, as well as our offices. As we approach the election, a fulsome understanding of the situation and needs across Virginia will be crucial to shaping a legislative response.

Americans are experiencing great hardship as a result of the ongoing public health emergency. For months, we have advocated for additional resources for local election officials grappling with the unprecedented voter turnout that is expected this November in the midst of a pandemic. While these requests have been ignored to this point, we hope to continue advocating for and amplifying the needs of Virginia’s elections officials during this critical time.

Sincerely,