From the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus:
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) remains united in our efforts to block Republican attempts to roll back voting rights. For years, Republicans have stoked fear and resentment around American’s concerns for fair elections to further disenfranchise marginalized voters, basing their arguments on provably false claims. In 2021, the VLBC was proud to champion the Voting Rights Act of Virginia, which made voting more accessible while protecting residents from discrimination at the ballot box.
This year, we are fighting to preserve, defend, and strengthen this crucial law.
VLBC members Senator Aaron Rouse, Chair of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, and Delegate Marcia Price, chief patron of the VRA of Virginia and Chair of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, have used their leadership roles to protect Virginians from the types of politically motivated attacks that gut integral voter protections,depress turnout and make it harder for people to have their voice heard.
“As someone who has fought to protect and expand voting rights on the local level in the City of Virginia Beach, I look forward to continuing my efforts to not only protect voting rights, but to also restore rights as Chair of Privileges and Elections in the Virginia State Senate,” said Senator Rouse.
As Delegate Price put it, “We live in a democracy, and the historic number of VLBC members, of women, and of LGBTQIA+ members now serving in the General Assembly is proof that the voting public wants diverse voices representing them and accomplishing bold things on their behalf. That inherent strength of the people’s voice starts at the ballot box. Republicans may see this as a threat to their power, but we see it as the result of the people exercising their power through the foundational freedom of voting. So as we continue to embody the historic legacy of the VLBC, we must continue to protect, enhance, and expand access to the ballot.”
And these efforts have proven effective in pushing back against an extremist agenda. Just a few years ago, Virginia was ranked the second most difficult state to vote in. Now, thanks to the vigilance and advocacy of VLBC members, Virginia has become the 11th easiest state in which to vote.
But even as we celebrate these successes and the positive impact they have had on voters, the VLBC remains steadfast in our commitment to fighting ongoing Republican efforts to reestablish anti-voter, anti-democratic policies.
Policies like requiring photo identification to vote, even though we know that nearly three times as many Black Americans do not have photo IDs when compared to white Americans. We also know that so-called “voter fraud” is a nearly nonexistent occurrence, despite what anti-voting extremists would have us believe.
Policies like attempting to attack and reverse Virginia’s early voting initiatives this session. This comes just a few months after the GOP launched their own campaign to take advantage of early voting amongst Republicans, a revealing, unfortunate, but not altogether surprising reversal. Knowing that our elderly, disabled, and working-class communities rely on absentee voting as a way to participate in the democratic process, we have been steadfast in our rejection of Republican-led proposals that seek to reinstate unfair barriers to vote.
And there are still other damaging policies we have stood up against and were able to defeat, including requiring in-person absentee voting, establishing limits on the special annual application of absentee ballots for those with an illness or disability, and the elimination of drop-off locations for the return of ballots. We also protected same-day voter registration, including on Election Day, which 25,000 people utilized in order to vote for the very first time in 2022.
And in response, we simply see more restrictive bills introduced, more fear-mongering, and more Republican officials saying the quiet part out loud. In defense of these attacks on voting access, one Senate Republican stated, “This year in Virginia, we’re going to have 135 days of voting… that’s a lot of voting. A whole lot of voting.”
We agree that 135 days is a lot of voting, and the VLBC celebrates each and every opportunity Virginians have to cast
their ballot and impact public policy.
Historically, those with institutional power in Virginia have never chosen to make this country a more inclusive democracy; we have. Black Americans have always understood the power of casting a ballot. It’s why we marched for it, organized for it, and now, we fight, and vote, to keep it. Our Republican counterparts did not bestow this right upon us and they certainly cannot take it away.
The VLBC’s goals are clear: we will continue to fight to protect and expand voting rights here in the Commonwealth. We refuse to be silent, especially in the face of consistent attempts to undermine the protections we have fought so hard to attain. Our caucus is the largest it has ever been, with 32 Delegates and State Senators proudly representing 1.6 million Black voices in every corner of the Commonwealth.
And you will be hearing from all of us each November