Last week, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors sent a letter to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam requesting that the Governor issue a state of emergency in light of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to suspend the witness signature requirement for voters casting their ballots by mail.
Lawyers Democracy Fund wrote a letter to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors imploring the Governor to maintain the witness signature requirement for absentee ballots in this year’s statewide election. LDF highlighted several important reasons the Governor should reject the request of the Board of Supervisors to declare a new state of emergency for the sole purpose of eliminating the witness signature requirement for absentee ballots:
- Even after the General Assembly adopted numerous changes to the election code, they responsibly kept the witness signature requirement for absentee ballots. It is apparent that the General Assembly believes this measure serves a valuable purpose––namely, ensuring a modicum of integrity in the practice of mail voting.
- Absentee ballot verification procedures, such as Virginia’s witness signature requirement, protect the election process from bad actors seeking to misuse absentee ballots and instill greater public confidence in the integrity of mail ballots.
- Removing this important measure would damage voter confidence in the election and its outcome.
- Virginia’s high vaccination rates and declining COVID-19 cases reveal that certainly no state of emergency exists that would show cause for the removal of the witness signature requirement like the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors request.
- Thousands of voters in this election have already relied on the current rules and requirements to cast their ballots. Changing the rules now would subject Virginia’s absentee voters to unequal treatment and, moreover, would result in voter confusion concerning what rules are actually being enforced.
LDF believes it is essential that the rule of law is maintained and that the procedures surrounding this election remain consistent. Voter confidence and trust in the outcome of Virginia’s election depends tremendously on proper election integrity safeguards that protect the integrity of the election like Virginia’s witness signature requirement for absentee ballots.
Read LDF’s letter to Governor Northam in its entirety below: