As she has done in each of the past six years, state Sen. Janet Howell is offering a bill in the 2013 General Assembly session to create near-universal early voting in Virginia. And after Tuesday’s election, she’ll come armed with anecdotes of interminably long lines at polling places in her home base of Fairfax County, similar to those seen in South Hampton Roads, to make the case for her legislation. Yet if the past is any indication, those real-world examples may not be enough to overcome resistance.
Howell’s legislation to allow no-excuse-needed, in-person absentee voting has failed every year since 2007, often clearing the Senate only to be smothered in a House of Delegates subcommittee.
She’s hoping for a different outcome this time, banking on fresh citizen outrage to propel it to passage.
“Waiting in line for four hours is outrageous and punitive, really,” Howell, a Democrat, said Thursday. “I would just hope the delegates and senators would listen to their constituents, because they’re really angry.”
Despite her optimism, passage seems unlikely given the legislature’s partisan dynamics.
Chesapeake Del. John Cosgrove, a Republican who chairs the subcommittee where some of Howell’s bills have died, said he is sympathetic to voters stuck in long lines – he waited 40 minutes Tuesday – but doesn’t think expanded absentee voting is the solution.