On Monday, Governor Ralph Northam (D) announced that in his 2019 legislation package, set to be heard during the 45-day General Assembly session beginning January 9, there will be a few election-related items to be discussed with lawmakers to improve the “integrity” of elections in the Commonwealth. Interestingly, one proposal to do such a thing includes repealing the law requiring voters to present a photo identification at the ballot box.
The package from the governor presented in Richmond just two days before the start of the session also addresses campaign finance reforms, moving towards limiting large campaign contributions, banning all political contributions made by businesses and corporations, and prohibiting the use of campaign funds for personal, non-campaign use.
Reportedly, the bill repealing Virginia’s voter ID law is sponsored by Delegate Kaye Kory (D-Fairfax). In a statement she said, “Lawmakers should be working to increase access to the voting booth, not inventing ways to keep voters away from the polls,” according to a report from NBC 12.
Furthermore, legislation from the Democratic Caucus provides that campaign contributions would be capped at $10,000 for individuals. Virginia, for state-level elections, has no limit on how much money can be donated to a campaign.
Other bills from Democrats involving election and campaign law include implementing “no-excuse” absentee voting, early voting, allowing prisoners to cast ballots in state and local elections, and for the Virginia Department of Elections (ELECT) to create a pilot program to vote by mail.
Speaking on his legislation package for the upcoming 45-day session in Richmond, the governor said he and the Democratic caucus will work to “increase the transparency of our elections for Virginians by imposing reasonable limitations on campaign contributions.”
After calling for campaign finance reforms during his 2017 gubernatorial campaign, Northam accepted checks from some of Virginia’s biggest corporate donors to fund his inauguration. After accepting over $2 million from Democrat mega-donor Tom Steyer, among many other high-dollar contributions from campaign patrons, Northam was reprimanded by many in his own party and in the media.
The Washington Post said, “Virginians can’t trust Ralph Northam on campaign-finance reform…when it comes to holding themselves [Governor Northam and his supporters] accountable, they balk. It is this sort of double standard elitism that makes Virginians’ stomachs turn.”
“Northam’s campaign said he would not ‘unilaterally disarm’ by imposing the restrictions on himself, adding that the push for reform would come after he was elected governor,” the Richmond Times-Dispatch remarked after the governor’s 2017 victory.
Regardless, as the one-member Republican majorities in both the House and Senate are set to counter progressive-backed election bills, they will also be campaigning themselves as all 140 seats in the General Assembly are up for re-election in November 2019.