People registering to vote in Virginia would no longer be required to check boxes to indicate whether they are U.S. citizens or felons whose right to vote has not been restored under changes being considered by the Virginia Board of Elections. Voters would still have to affirm elsewhere on the application, under the threat of a felony conviction, that they are citizens and otherwise eligible. But instead of responding to separate questions about their citizenship or felony status, they would simply sign the form on a line near language that attests to their eligibility based on those and other requirements.
The distinction may seem small, but it is one that hits the political hot buttons of voter fraud, illegal immigration and the restoration of felons’ voter rights. The proposed changes have triggered yet another battle over the rules of electoral engagement in Virginia, a critical presidential swing state that is also embroiled in a redistricting battle.
Elections officials said the change in the registration form is meant to simplify the process and to avoid rejecting otherwise eligible voters who simply overlook a box when filling it out. But Republicans said they were concerned that Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) was trying to pump up Democratic voter rolls ahead of critical state and national elections. They are calling on supporters to protest the proposed changes at an election board meeting Tuesday outside Richmond.