September 17 marked the start of early voting in Virginia’s statewide elections. Amid a spate of new voter suppression bills nationwide, the Virginia legislature has made positive progress on the freedom to vote in recent years. It’s important that Virginians take full advantage and turn out at the polls this fall.
PFAW President Ben Jealous and Dr. Veronica Coleman in The Virginian-Pilot:
In March, Gov. Ralph Northam used an executive order to restore voting rights to all Virginians who have served time in prison, immediately upon their release. This followed new laws in 2020 that repealed Virginia’s voter ID requirement and made Election Day a state holiday.
These expansions of access to voting are a breath of fresh air in the wake of discouraging news about voter suppression; nearly 20 states passed at least 30 laws limiting voting this year. And they come at a time when so much is at stake in Virginia, on both the local and national stage.
In electing a new governor and House of Delegates, Virginians will not only determine the course of several critical issues affecting their daily lives and their state’s future, but this election will set the tone for the federal elections to follow in 2022.
Our off-year state elections are traditionally seen as a curtain-raiser for the federal elections that follow. And there is no escaping the fact that this Nov. 2 in Virginia will provide one of the first big referenda on former President Donald Trump’s ongoing influence on our elections. The results here will send a message that will reverberate nationwide.
We know that fewer Virginians vote in non-presidential years — about a third fewer, overall. We all have busy lives, and the ongoing pandemic has made a lot of activities more challenging. But this “off year” is hugely significant for our future.
Virginians have a unique opportunity that they cannot pass up.
Dr. Coleman is founder and pastor of New Jerusalem Ministries of Virginia Beach. Her opinions are her own.