After Tracey Bell tried to register to vote in Virginia last year, she got a letter in the mail saying her citizenship was in doubt and she would have to pay $10 to prove it. Confused and annoyed, Bell ranted on Facebook. It was the rare Facebook rant that actually led to government action. A friend put her in touch with the Virginia Democratic Party, which connected her to a lawyer who explained that she had forgotten to check a box confirming her citizenship. She fixed it — and a year later, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) is pushing to have the box requirement eliminated.
Both the lawyer and the governor are participating in a national Democratic effort to expand turnout that could make or break presidential election results in highly competitive states — and Virginia is a key target. “The governor favors anything that can increase access to voting,” McAuliffe spokeswoman Christina Nuckols said, “while also ensuring the integrity of the voting process.”
According to voting rights activists, 15 states with 162 electoral votes face new voting restrictions in 2016. Because of a 2013 Supreme Court decisionoverturning part of the 50-year-old Voting Rights Act, next year’s presidential election will be the first in which Southern states, including Virginia, will not be required to have election-law changes approved by federal authorities.